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Total per-student aid hasn't made college more affordable, it's just allowed colleges to raise their fees.

Posted by on May. 1, 2012 at 3:51 PM
  • 5 Replies

Why Perpetuate a Bad Policy?

Andrew J. Coulson

Andrew J. Coulson is the director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute.

April 18, 2012

For the sake of argument, assume that federal tax exemptions of nonprofit colleges are curtailed in direct proportion to institutional wealth and that this new tax revenue is spent on student aid. What good would it do?

Total per-student aid hasn't made college more affordable, it's just allowed colleges to raise their fees

Total per-student aid has already more than tripled since 1980, adjusting for inflation. This hasn’t made college more affordable, it’s just allowed colleges to raise their fees. Student debt, now roughly $1 trillion, is at an all-time high.

The increased aid hasn’t done much for the completion rate, either. Barely half of students at four-year public institutions graduate in six years — and many learn very little along the way. Nearly half of all college students made no significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, or written communication after two full years of study, according to research by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. Even among the more elite subset of students who stick around for four full years of college, a third made no significant gains in these areas.

It’s true that college degrees boost income, on average, although the boost is smaller than often imagined. But average benefits don’t tell us whether an additional infusion of federal spending would help students. The average includes both academic all-stars who obtain degrees in high-demand fields and weak students pursuing degrees of little labor market value. The former earn huge premiums from their college degrees, the latter, even in the unlikely event they graduate, generally don’t.

So the dramatic rise in student aid of the last three decades induced many academically weak students to shoulder huge debts pursuing degrees that taught them next to nothing, which they often failed to complete, and which were of doubtful value even when they did. It makes no sense to perpetuate that policy — particularly now that college-level courses and materials are springing up all over the Web, available at little cost whenever and wherever the motivated student wants.

Can a case be made that the tax exempt status of some non-profit colleges has become an inefficient way to advance higher education? Perhaps. But since increased tax rates usually lead people to report less income, it is likely that taxing endowment earnings would lead colleges to report less of them. So the new revenue generated would pale... in comparison to existing federal student aid. In any event, increasing the current inefficient and even harmful federal college subsidies would hardly be an improvement.

by on May. 1, 2012 at 3:51 PM
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Replies (1-5):
Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on May. 3, 2012 at 12:11 AM

bump

momoftwo0406
by on May. 3, 2012 at 2:14 AM

Wow if that is not the truth 100%

I'm in that group I have a lovely debt that I will be paying off for years. :)

iluv2meow
by on May. 3, 2012 at 2:29 AM
1 mom liked this

Yikes... I am currently in college and I have to confess I started questioning how the professors are teaching the classes too many easy As being given and too many class projects that are simply follow the book not requiring anyone to really study the material. I also have concerns with the fact that so much information is being handed out that it is almost impossible for someone in a study to even obtain it all if they have literally no background in the field which they are studying...

THIS is why students are leaving college with literally no improvement in knowledge or education from critical thinking and so forth...

I dont blame the professors always some are purposely not making their classes challenging enough or giving the students the right kind of guidance to help them better their education in that class but many students walk in with know it all attitudes or wanting to just GET IT DONE attitude or I dont need to read this material attitude... I know within my computer field and study the attitude is awful many with crap attitude thinking they are better and already know it and yet fail to realize they could use the materials to better what they already know!

Then I see those with NO background struggling and walking out barely understanding the first part of the class much less the ending of it... I often feel for them, because no matter what field you study, its hard work and a lot of information to absorb!

Sadly, these degrees are not going to get you a job and experience is everything. I think it is scary i will spend about 12 thousand dollars just for one associate degree and will barely even remember or know enough to seriously get on a job without further training and education :(

Luckily the areas Im studying will help me improve the knowledge I know and missing regards to my web designing and web hosting business. This is what brought me back to school in the first place.

I dont think this article is wrong... I think they got some good points.

stormcris
by Christy on May. 3, 2012 at 5:25 AM
1 mom liked this

Perhaps at some point we will reconsider the apprenticeships due to the college greed.

rocketracer
by Silver Member on May. 3, 2012 at 8:55 AM
1 mom liked this

I've said this all along:

"Total per-student aid hasn't made college more affordable, it's just allowed colleges to raise their fees."

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