The issue of college affordability is so relevant in the lives of each one of us, making this week’s reading a personal experience. A main issue within this topic that stuck out to me was the difficulty associated with collecting data about it. Baum and Ma provide us with details about what it really means for college to be “affordable.” They mention the increasing unmet need of students and point out that it can only be calculated based on individuals that are enrolled, skewing the data. This measurement does not take into account those that have such high unmet need that they cannot make college work for them. Additionally, we struggle to find a clear definition for the cost of college. There are so many additionally costs on top of tuition, including housing and textbooks. It is easy to see how data about college affordability can get messy. The very roots of the issue have complications and yet we are supposed to build on this rocky foundation.
It seems that one of the most common suggestions given to aid in the issue of college affordability is simplifying the financial aid process. Learning more about finance in high school, creating higher demand for entrance and exit loan counseling, simplifying the vocabulary, and reducing the amount of texts given to students about aid are all ideas mentioned in the senate hearing we watched. It was even mentioned that only 1 in 5 eligible individuals are taking advantage of income-based repayment for their loans. Getting better information out to potential and current students could create more informed decisions about aid. I am curious to see how much of an impact better counseling and programs would have on statistics about loan repayment and financial aid. I also wonder if enough students would take advantage of counseling and other programs that it would be worth investing in. There is an obvious need for other ideas, for example a decrease in federal regulations in higher education, but my main curiosity is based on what differences would be made if more simplified information was available.