Financial aid

Arizona proposal latest to object to subsidizing others' educations

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Proposals in Arizona and two other states show a reluctance to subsidize the higher education of others, and question a longstanding practice of using aid to improve access.

Virginia governor seeks to cap use of tuition revenue for financial aid

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Virginia governor challenges a centuries-old tradition of using tuition revenue from wealthier students as financial aid for other students.

UC system weighs shift in tuition payments to after graduation

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Proposal being weighed by University of California to shift student payments to after graduation and tie them to income would be a dramatic change in how education is financed.

Budget compromise would preserve maximum Pell grant, NIH funding

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A budget compromise would slightly increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and change eligibility for the largest federal grant program for college students.

Study: Tuition increases are not entirely explained by state disinvestment

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Tuition rose faster than state appropriations fell, and federal aid helped make that possible, study asserts. does headline overstate? should we add "(Alone)" or something, so we're not making it seem like Cato is saying state disinvestment plays no role? dl***Good point. Added "Alone." -RS

Researchers download federal data amid concerns over future access

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Some education researchers have begun downloading federal data amid questions about the new administration's commitment to continuing transparency efforts.

Maine Cuts Tuition for Graduate Students From Nearby States

The University of Maine is building on its highly visible tuition-matching program for undergraduates by starting a similar new program for graduate students.

The university's new regional graduate scholarship will be available to new fully admitted students from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont starting this fall. It will drop out-of-state tuition from $1,361 per credit hour to $650 per credit hour for 22 programs. That's the same price or lower than students would pay if they were attending a flagship campus in their own state, according to the university.

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Reports Argue for Changes to California Higher Ed

Two advocacy groups released reports on public higher education in California Tuesday, arguing for changes as ambitious as free tuition and as practical as accountability reforms.

One report, from the Reclaim California Higher Education Coalition, argues for restoring per-student state funding to 2000 levels after adjusting for inflation, for offering all students seats and for eliminating tuition in order to return California to the original spirit of its vaunted Master Plan for Higher Education. Such moves would only cost the median California household $48 per year in additional state income tax, it says -- although it uses a funding formula that would cost high-income families much more, as much as $50,240 for those with adjusted gross income over $1 million. It would also cost lower-income families less.

The other report, from College Futures Foundation, says California should change the way it funds its public university systems and makes financial decisions about them. The report notably calls for reform in revenue stability and predictability, arguing California should find a way to keep revenue from spiking during good years and plummeting during lean years. It also calls for improving budgeting practices for employee benefits, having state universities do more to reallocate the money they have toward student success and for California to improve its processes for accountability and transparency.

The two reports come as the University of California and California State systems could approve the first tuition increases in six years. Governor Jerry Brown has also proposed phasing out the state’s scholarship program for middle-class students, a proposal The Los Angeles Times reports has become a source of stress for students and parents.

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Why University of Kentucky has significantly shifted its ratio of merit to need-based financial aid (essay)

One of the strengths -- and there are many -- of the American higher education system is its traditional commitment to access.

Higher education leaders at all levels have been united in their desire to create and maintain affordable pathways to attendance at postsecondary institutions. We all are aware of the well-documented potential for progress that higher education offers generations of students and families.

But without question, during the last 30 years, the affordability of a college degree has eroded noticeably and significantly. A number of factors have contributed to that trend, but it’s clear that, as low-tuition, low-aid models have evolved into high-tuition, high-aid models, more and more middle-class students have been denied the opportunity to pursue higher education. That is why we at the University for Kentucky have evaluated how we structure our scholarships and have decided to chart a dramatically different path -- one much more aggressive in facilitating the success of students and families of limited financial means. It is right for our students, and it is right for the Commonwealth.

We’ve seen that, over time, colleges and universities have begun to use institutional aid to “sculpt” their entering classes. We have deployed aid to meet institutional priorities -- to support worthy goals of academic achievement and diversity, and to achieve important strategic objectives such as higher graduation rates.

But at what cost?

The connection between socioeconomic status and academic ability is well established. On average, students from families with higher incomes score better on national tests (ACT and SAT), are academically prepared, and engage in college-preparatory tutorials, among other advantages. It is no wonder, then, that those students also are rewarded more generously with institutional aid that is targeted toward merit.

At the University of Kentucky, we understand the results of these socioeconomic advantages and merit-based aid strategies. Students at the top end of both academic preparation and income receive the bulk of our merit-based aid -- which means the students who have the most options for postsecondary attainment are also receiving the most resources.

The fact is, however, that promising students who come from lesser means have not had such additional advantages and, in too many cases, have suffered as a result. As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, we have a moral responsibility to change that situation.

To be sure, we have institutional aid dedicated to those with the most need, and we take advantage of the longstanding state and federal funds available. But, as has also been the case in the overall American economy since the Great Recession of 2008, we are observing the worrisome trend of a hollowing out of the middle. It is those students in the middle -- both in terms of socioeconomic background and academic preparation -- who are facing increasing obstacles to postsecondary attainment.

There is no question that these students can succeed. The question is can they afford the opportunity? At UK, our goal through our strategic plan is to place the student at the center of all of our decisions. Against that backdrop, we recently announced a new initiative that will radically change how we allocate our institutional aid.

Through UK LEADS (Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success), we are intentionally moving away from the institutional merit-based-aid arms race and instead committing ourselves to serving our students and our state. We want unmet financial need to be off the table as a concern for students and families.

A review of internal data has indicated that students with $5,000 or more unmet need -- defined as the amount remaining after the expected family contribution and all other aid (institutional, state and federal aid) -- had a significantly higher risk of attrition than students with less than $5,000 unmet need. And attrition increased significantly with each additional $5,000 in unmet need.

UK LEADS will dramatically shift the ratio of merit to need-based financial aid over the next five years. Currently, 90 percent of our aid is targeted to merit. By 2021, we hope 65 percent will be directed to financial need.

We plan to continue offering merit-aid based on a set of selection criteria. But if we do not make a radical change, it will become more difficult for our middle-class students to attend and graduate from our institution.

As public institutions have entered the institutional-aid arms race, institutional goals have taken precedence over the needs of their states and students. At UK, we believe that if we focus instead on student success and what is best for our state, institutional success will follow. But the reverse may not be true.

In the wake of the recent presidential election, there is also a strong push nationally to reinvest in the middle class, to address economic dislocations wrought by globalization and technology. Access to higher education must be a vital component of that effort.

In changing the way we think about aid -- by focusing less on sculpting a class of students and being more concerned about who can be positively impacted by a renewed commitment to affordable access -- we in higher education can once again honor our legacy as the nation’s brightest hope for economic and social progress.

Eli Capilouto is the president and Tim Tracy is the provost of the University of Kentucky.

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Colleges shouldn't abandon early-admissions programs (essay)

Every year without fail, a well-respected educator comes out against early-admission programs, calling them “barriers to keep most low-income students out.” This year’s quote is from a recent piece in Inside Higher Ed by Harold O. Levy, a former chancellor of the New York City Public Schools and the executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

I have great respect for Levy and for the significant work done by the Cooke Foundation to advance students of great potential from economically disadvantaged families. But early-admission programs are not discriminatory by definition at the bulk of the nation’s nonprofit, four-year colleges and universities. And in fact, they do not have to act against the inclusion of disadvantaged students at the nation’s most prestigious institutions. Here’s why.

It is true that many low-income students are not aware of early-decision programs because they are the first generation in their family to go to college and attend high schools where counselors are responsible for 1,000 or more students each. But colleges and universities can and do promote early decision and early action in all of their search communications, on their websites and in their brochures. And those of us who are committed to enrolling low-income students go out of our way to connect with them and to make them aware of early programs while saving places for them in the regular pool. Pell-eligible students represent 35 percent of the enrollment at my institution, Drew University, and we have an early-decision program -- so it can be done. Further, those students graduate at the essentially same rate as the other two-thirds of the student body, so they are being served well.

Many highly selective colleges are now test optional in admission, so the fact that low-income students may not have test scores in time for early deadlines is a nonissue at those institutions. And the notion that low-income students can’t commit to enrolling through an early-decision program because they need financial aid is an equally empty hypothesis.

First of all, the early Free Application for Federal Student Aid allows colleges to award actual aid upon early-decision admission. Second, as every early-decision institution will tell you, if the aid is not sufficient in the family’s mind, the student will be released from the early-decision commitment.

I always tell students and their parents that they should apply in a binding early-decision program only if parents know how much they are willing and able to contribute toward college expenses, and if they are not interested in comparing offers from other institutions. If they receive enough to make attendance possible, and the college is the student’s first choice, then the process has successfully concluded. If, however, they want to shop for the best deal, then early decision is not for them. But we can’t just say that early decision is bad for all low-income students.

In many ways, early decision is the best time to apply for financial aid, because colleges do not exhaust their grant resources during the early round. And as I said, if the aid is not sufficient, colleges will release students from the early commitment. This is a no-lose proposition for the student.

Levy presents compelling evidence of the disparity of incomes represented in early-decision programs:

The Cooke Foundation study found that only 16 percent of high-achieving students from families with annual incomes below $50,000 applied for college admission on an early-decision basis in the 2013-14 academic year. But 29 percent of high-achieving students from families with incomes above $250,000 applied on an early-decision basis. Is it any wonder that so many more upper-income students gain admission?

To be fair, that needs to be put into context. According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of all low-income students were enrolled in college compared to 81 percent of all high-income students (defining low income as the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes and high income as the top 20 percent). In other words, many more high-income students enroll in college in the first place, so it is not surprising that many more high-income students also enroll through early decision.

This underscores the real issue for American higher education. We need to spend less time advocating for the elimination of a program, like early admission, that attracts higher-income students (who, by the way, help to bring in the revenue to support lower-income students) and more time -- as the Cooke Foundation and many colleges do so well -- developing better ways to recruit and support low-income students through to graduation. The future competitiveness of our country depends on it.

Robert Massa is senior vice president for enrollment and institutional planning at Drew University. He previously served as vice president for enrollment and college relations at Dickinson College and as dean of enrollment at Johns Hopkins University.

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