College Affordability

This weeks readings addressed college access and affordability based on financial aid. Financial aid is one of the most crucial necessities for students attending postsecondary institutions because of their high costs of attendance. Federal student financial aid is generally calculated based on students financial need and ability to pay for college costs. The MDRC (2014) article argues that need-based aid is critical for student’s college enrollment and completion. They argue that students with a high unmet need are less likely to persist and complete their degrees. They also found that students who enrolled part-time are less likely to complete their degree. MDRC (2014) also focused on the impacts of performance-based scholarships and found they overall improve college affordability because short-term they reduce student’s unmet need and long-term decreased the time to complete the degree. They suggest targeting aid to at-risk low-income students in an effort to increase their financial support, especially since their increases in unmet need are the highest. They also suggest encouraging full-time enrollment, summer and winter course enrollment with financial aid support, increasing work-study opportunities, and incremental disbursements of aid. The incremental disbursement of aid is one suggestion that makes sense but is also a little problematic. The disbursement of aid in a lump sum, for some students, can be beneficial when they have additional monies that are dispersed as a refund after tuition is paid. Many students use this money for living expenses, food, textbooks, etc. If aid was dispersed incrementally it may cause students to continue to struggle in between pay periods and cause increased stress for these students, negatively impacting their academic success. However, this can be beneficial, like the article addressed, for students who do drop out, as they do not have to worry about paying back money they did not use. Yet, I think this is dependent on the amount of time that student spent in school before dropping out because if they are in their 3rd or 4th year and they drop out, the payback for the money they did accumulate years prior will still cause them to be in great debt and still without a college degree.

Baum & Ma (2014) believe financial aid reform should focus on the student, as they are generally influenced by perceptions and messages about college and affordability, which often times steers them away from the idea. In States in the Driver’s Seat, WICHE (2014) argues for a shared responsibility amongst the student, parents, federal government, state, and the institution to collectively pay for the cost of attendance. However, Goldrick-Rab, Schudde, & Stampen (2014) argue that there should be a refocus on financial aid on the institutions as opposed to the students. One suggestion they proposed was the “market driven choice-based approach” where students are viewed as consumers, to be recreated, focusing on the public good. They also suggest that institutions be rewarded for their efforts toward the public good in keeping college affordable. I agree that federal and local government and institutions need to work collaboratively in creating additional funding opportunities for students. If students are coming from backgrounds that have prevented them and their families from saving money their only other option is to borrow. However extensive borrowing can have negative impacts on the students return on investment as well as keep them financially strained paying back loans. Once we begin to place more emphasis on these aspects, the “after effects” of financing education, appropriate policies will be created. But as long as we remain stuck in within the “education as a marketplace” ideology there will continue to be very few opportunities to afford higher education for all financially vulnerable individuals.