College Affordability

The articles this week dealt with the issues surrounding college affordability. The readings suggest that increasing prices in tuition, along with other expenses related to schooling, are making it less and less likely for a person to attend due to affordability. Several policies are also suggested throughout the texts, which aim to promote affordability through state aid and accountability.

While completing the reading this week, I felt an overwhelming sense of discontent. This came as a result of the information presented to in MDRC reading, which, among other things, pointed out that, “students in the lowest income quartile had, on average, from $9,031 to $10,259 in unmet need.” This attests to the much larger problem of college affordability that we, as students, are now facing. The article goes on to mention that low-income students are often working 20 hours a week to bridge the aforementioned disparity, while also attempting to attend classes. This has been proven to negatively influence performance in the classroom, as well as decrease the likelihood of graduation. As a student working similar hours to those mentioned in their study, I found myself wondering what effect my own work schedule and financial need was having on my performance. While it may seem rather sensible to conclude that working less means more time for studies, it is no less frustrating because of this.

It is also mentioned in the Baum and Ma reading that financial aid is tied closely to parental income. Affordability currently exists insofar as the parents of a child are able to pay, but Baum and Ma propose shifting the focus from parent to student, and taking into account their lifetime earning premium. It seems as if this approach would have several unintended consequences. The first that comes to mind would be the fact that this method would perhaps paint achievement of maximum lifetime earnings as unnecessary and superfluous. The second consequence would be the extent to which it is expected a student is to work during their time in college. If a student were to work more, the work-based learning programs proposed in the WICHE article would be excellent sources of income and education for student workers.