by Taylor Englert
When it comes to the costs of higher education, one thing everyone can agree with is that it is getting out of hand. In the last year tuition and fees have increased 8.3%, which more than doubled the rate of inflation. This increase was not a surprise. It followed the trend of increasing tuition costs that has been occurring for the last decade at an average rate of 5.6%. On top of the high costs, a college degree has become a necessity to obtain a decent career. The only solution for students has become borrowing. The federal government is lending over $100 billion dollars a year to students. Private loans on top of that have left many graduates unable to keep up.
Kevin Carey, a director of Education Sector, a think tank in Washington D.C, compares entering college to getting smuggled across the border. He says “you can get to the promised land if you try hard enough, but you arrive in a state of indentured servitude to the shady operators who overcharged you for the trip.” The image he portrays of the costs of higher education is dark and striking, but realistic. Carey acknowledges the hard work the government is putting in trying to mitigate costs, but doesn’t see it as progress when the tuition fees are still increasing astronomically.
The problem is obvious, but the solutions are vague. Carey sees the high costs as an “inevitable consequence of the way higher education system is currently design.” The system is broken and “static.” It is not changing and developing with the needs of the time. Most higher education institutions are founded in their old ways and traditions. They do not desire to change. Carey believes the government needs to threaten the institutions for reformation to ever occur. The institutions are benefiting themselves when they need to put students and public interest first.
by Philip Wubbolt
Legislation in the Pennsylvania legislature will allow several Pennsylvania public colleges to pull out of the 14 university system of higher education. Supporters of the bill say it would strengthen the state system by allowing its best universities to leave while those who oppose it say it would hurt the system because it would result in increased tution and weakened faculty unions. Many trustees and lawmakers are pushing for this bill to be approved. The bill would allow PASSHE’s best off institutions, those with over 7,000 students and good financials, to become “state-related” versus “state-owned”. The epicenter for support is West Chester University.
The sheer fact that this kinds of rash actions are on the minds of lawmakers and trustees shows the failures of the state-school system as a whole. The belief is that leaders at privatized universities will be able to run a higher education system better than the government.
CSCubed is preparing for AICUP Student Lobby Day in Harrisburg on April 1. Our primary goal is to convince legislators to commit funding to a new PHEAA grant program that helps middle class students pay for college. Leading up to Lobby Day we’ll be providing more information as to why this new grant program is so important.
AICUP research provides the following information:
The middle class is hit hardest by student debt because they are not wealthy enough to pay for education out of pocket and not poor enough to qualify for programs like Pell Grants. Consequently the new middle income PHEAA grants that CSCubed supports will help a population that has the most student loan debt of any income category.
by Elizabeth Cohen
A bill introduced in Washington’s legislature proposes that students do not have to worry about paying their college tuition right away. Rather, after leaving school, they would pay a percentage of their income for up to a 25 year period. The “Pay It Forward” program can help a wide variety of people with different incomes afford college. 17 other states have introduced similar legislation. However critics of this program believe we should stick to the programs that already exist, like grants, and add money to those instead of trying to fund brand new programs. Still there are good points listed in the bill such as if a person’s income changes then the amount they pay per month would change as well. This bill would bring many changes to a student’s ability to pay for a college education.
As higher education becomes a necessary part of life, many new institutions are appealing to the less fortunate student. These schools are categorized as for-profit and market their programs to attract anyone willing to listen. They operate by cutting costs and by obtaining money given to students through federal financial aid. Because less fortunate students receive more financial aid for-profit schools attempt to attract this demographic group. The government has a law to limit the amount of money that a university can receive through federal financial aid. Called the 90/10 rule it “requires for-profit colleges to receive 10 percent of their revenue from nonfederal sources to be eligible to receive [up to 90% from] federal student aid.”
However, there are critical flaws to the 90/10 rule. Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits are not counted as federal revenue. As a result, many for-profit schools prey on military veterans. This gap in the law can cause some institutions to receive almost 100% of revenue from the federal government. Opponents argue that for-profit institutions increase tuition when Congress increases federal student aid funding in order to fulfill the rule.
Another loophole involves enrolling international students. Some top for-profit schools, such as EDMC, have Canadian campuses. The Canadian students are not qualified for US financial aid, consequently the tuition they pay is added into the “10” percent, allow the schools to circumvent the law.
H.R. 340, Protecting Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act, would prevent for-profit institutions from using federal education assistance for advertising, marketing, and recruiting students. This would solve many of the problems with the 90/10 rule and close many of the loopholes.
The critical question then becomes the prioritization of funds: What’s more important, success and resources available to the students or the wad of cash that goes in the pocket of the institution? This may seem drastic, but it seems post-secondary institutions, especially those dedicated to the generation of profit, have become more of a business then a center of learning and growth. Although it’s not a perfect solution, reforming these policies will take our nation a step closer to providing students with more than a paper, a promise, and a plethora of debt when they graduate.