1. When Students Are Rejected For Being Poor: George Washington University and the Roots of a Troubled System by Josh Freedman. GW received national attention after increased transparency about changes to its need-blind financial aid policy. Freedman writes that the high-tuition, high-aid higher education model relies on attracting for full-paying students to subsidize increased spending and financial aid. Wider systemic changes are needed to make universities more accessible for all.
2. Student Debt Nearly Tripled in 8 Years, New York Federal Reserve Reports by Tyler Kingkade. According to the New York Federal Reserve, the total student debt has tripled over the past eight years. The effects are more tragic than past due loan payments. More and more graduates are unable to buy homes and participate in the economy than previous generations because of high college debt.
3. Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Poor Behind by Stephen Burd. This report by the New America Foundation finds that even with federal Pell Grants, many private universities’ high net sticker prices are preventing low-income students from attending their institutions. Colleges seek to build their prestige by attracting wealthier students through construction and merit aid. Burd specifically cites GW as a “low Pell, high cost” school that “remains among the 30 least socioeconomically diverse private colleges in the nation.” GW’s lowest-income students pay an average $15,000 per year, often larger than their family income, and graduate with an average debt of about $33,000. The report pins blame on former University President Trachtenberg who raised the school’s position on college rankings through a “building spree” in the early 2000s, but left many low-income students behind with the high tuition that paid for these new amenities.
4. The Tuition Is Too Damn High Series (Part III/Part VI) by Dylan Matthews. A five part segment describing the main barriers to entry in higher education. The article cites “the Bowen theory” which says universities seek to maximize potential revenue, spend all they can possible raise and avoid cutting costs. Suggesting universities are most likely spending too much, the author argues that colleges can reduce costs without affecting educational quality. He cites that infrastructure and non-faculty staffing costs are predominantly to blame for large increases in tuition that began in the early 2000s. Matthews makes an important point: because most universities are nonprofit institutions, they often cannot save money using traditional methods used by private businesses. He also argues that since the value of college degrees is difficult to measure, universities can exploit students by raising tuition without increasing the quality of the education provided.
5. Many Young Americans Blame Colleges for Rising College Debt by Tyler Kingkade. A recent poll by the Harvard University Institute of Politics finds that the majority of students blame their universities for rising tuition and student debt. Across the U.S., private and public colleges are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new gym equipment, dorms and other amenities. The article also blames the federal government and the lack of attention to state legislatures for the increase of student debt.
6. Colleges’ Debt Falls on Students After Construction Binges by Andrew Martin. In recent years, colleges have tried to attract more students to their campuses by building and renovating dormitories and recreational facilitates. With a slow economy, popular college ranking systems and frugal state governments, colleges are forced to raise tuition and take out large loans to remain competitive and boost their perceived prestige. The article shows that these tuition hikes are requiring even more financial aid. The article also suggests universities should reinvent themselves and simply stop their unsustainable pursuit of construction projects.
7. How Spending More on Academics Can Actually Hurt College Enrollment by Brad Tuttle. The author shows a new trend in less selective private colleges: providing more campus amenities instead of higher-quality instruction and an overall better education. The article cites a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research which claims second-tier private schools focus more on campus amenities because their students will appreciate it more and are less attracted to campuses that focus more on academic quality. It even states doing the opposite especially when attendance is low would be harmful to the university’s stability.
8. How Student Debt Reduces Lifetime Wealth by Robert Hiltonsmith. This interactive report follows the accumulated wealth of two households: one with student debt and one without. Current research shows students of color and from low-income families graduate with the highest levels of debt. The research finds that approximately each dollar borrowed equals 4 dollars of total wealth loss throughout a household’s lifetime, resulting in lower retirement savings, mortgage interest rates and future home values.
9. Student Debt Slows Economic Growth as Young Spend Less by Annie Lowrey. Although many college graduates are better off than non-degree holders, they still face many problems. The article follows Shane Gill, a 33-year-old teacher, who is a bachelor and does not own a car or a home. He lives a life like many graduates in their 20s and 30s who have to delay larger purchases like cars, houses and other expensive luxuries due to their debt.
10. Why American Colleges Are Becoming a Force for Inequality by Josh Freedman. In theory, colleges offer students, especially from low-income backgrounds, better opportunities to succeed in life. Today, most colleges fail to promote social mobility because they follow an unsustainable business model dependent on raising tuition prices, enrolling full-paying students to offset prices, and investing in luxurious amenities. The article suggests that since most universities do not have large endowments and continue to try to outspend each other on non-educational projects, governments should fund more public universities, make more grants, and reform the college loan system.
What were your favorite higher-education reads of the year? Comment on this post to share your views!
Please note that the above opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of GW Not For Profit or its members.