Among the most popular ideas that Democratic presidential candidates campaign for is a tuition-free higher education. In a new Atlantic Argument, writer Adam Harris explains that while this is an intriguing idea, it is also a vague and sweeping one, and voters want policy specifics. “The nuts and bolts of education proposals in the 2020 election,” Harris says, “are critical to understanding whether or not, six years from now, the student-debt bubble reaches $2.5 trillion, or even $3 trillion.”
States have collectively scaled back their annual higher education funding by $9 billion over the last 10 years, when adjusted for inflation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports. State appropriations per full-time student have fallen from an inflation-adjusted $8,489 in 2007 to $7,642 in 2017, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. That has pushed up the portion of university budgets that come from students to $6,572 from $4,817 over the same 10 years. Ten years ago, students and their families paid for about a third of university operating costs…now they pay for nearly half.
The 50 states appropriated a total of $91.5 billion to support their public universities and financial aid programs in Fiscal Year 2018-19. That’s a 3.7% increase over 2017-18 and an 18.2% increase over Fiscal Year 2013-14, according to Grapevine, the annual report of state higher education spending…This year’s increase continues a five-year trend of annual increases and is more than twice as large as last year’s uptick of 1.6%. While in general, the figures come as good news, reflecting the continuing recovery of state revenues, they mask considerable variation in support for higher education across the states. For example: The five largest year-over-year increases were in: Colorado (12%), Utah (8.6%), Hawaii (8.5%), Washington (6.8%) and California (6.6%). Five states decreased their appropriation from 2017-18 levels: South Carolina (-3.7%), Kentucky (-2.4%), Minnesota (-1.4%), Ohio (-.1%) and Alaska (-.1%).
Americans in a new poll of education priorities say they have a couple of top assignments for the new Congress — slash student debt and boost funding for public schools. The majority of Americans — both Republicans and Democrats — said “finding ways to lessen student debt” and “increasing spending on K-12 public education” were “extremely important” goals for the Congress…Respondents were given a list of six education policy areas and asked which they believe are “extremely important” for Congress to tackle. Seventy-nine percent picked cutting student debt, making it first on the list. Seventy-six percent selected public education funding, putting it second.
Analysis: How Bloomberg’s $1.8 billion gift to Johns Hopkins will elevate the national conversation about helping first-generation students complete their college degrees
What Bloomberg did is just one sliver of a barely noticed breakthrough playing out around boosting the college success rates for first-generation students. For decades nothing much worked to boost the college success rates for low-income and minority students. Although their rate of entering college rose impressively over the past decade, their actual degree-earning rates have been little better than flat. Instead of walking away with degrees, they walk away with disappointment, debt, or both. But that grim story appears to be changing, Richard Whitmire, author of The B.A. Breakthrough: How ending diploma disparities can change the face of America, outlines three factors driving this breakthrough: 1) The top charter school networks serving low-income students, which always promised parents they would find a way to ensure their children would earn college degrees, have carved out pathways to actually make that happen, 2) Colleges and universities have redoubled efforts to both admit more first-generation students and make sure they succeed, 3) Smart college advising aimed at first-generation students has always been sparse, which means many promising students end up at universities where they are unlikely to earn degrees. But that’s changing fast, thanks to an explosive growth in foundation-sponsored college advising programs.
Gov.-elect Pritzker taps committee, including CPS CEO, to come up with fixes to state education woes
Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker tapped a new committee Tuesday to tackle some of Illinois’ urgent issues in K-12 and higher education, leaning on Chicago and state officials to develop solutions to immense challenges worsened by long-standing budget problems. That group of school administrators, union officials, think tank executives and higher education officials may have to address the billions of dollars still needed to fully finance the state’s new K-12 education funding model, a teacher shortage that’s left some school districts struggling to staff classrooms and the ongoing loss of local high school graduates to out-of-state colleges. “To provide a quality education for every child, one of the major components is funding equity around the state,” Pritzker told reporters. “But now, where are the dollars and how do we accelerate so we get to where we’re trying to get to as fast as possible? Where are we going to bring efficiencies in state government, what dollars can we bring into state government immediately, as well as over a near and medium term?”
Community colleges receive minimal resources while serving a significant number of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, according to a new report from The Century Foundation. While these institutions often focus on increasing access to higher education by offering financial aid, relatively few students earn certificates or degrees. Investing in resources like full-time faculty, smaller class sizes, tutoring and intensive advising services, as well as proven programs like first-year experiences and learning communities are more likely to increase graduation rates, the report explains. Current barriers to doing so include a lack of research on the true cost of a quality community college education, over-reliance on local funds and poor allocation of state funding.
Free college programs have continued to launch at the state and local level. And this election cycle, more candidates than ever are running on the idea. The free-college programs already enacted in states like Oregon, Tennessee and New York illustrate the extent to which state-funded programs are shaped by local circumstances. These and most other state-level programs are “last-dollar” models — the state covers whatever need is left unmet after a student exhausts their federal aid options, so much of those resources go to middle-class students, not the poor. Two recent reports from the Institute for Higher Education Policy and Ed Trust — both nonpartisan groups focused on equity in postsecondary education — reinforced concerns many already had about free college. Both reports found that tuition-free college programs often fail to meet the needs of the poorest students and overlook costs of attendance beyond tuition.
The University of Virginia plans to waive tuition for in-state students whose families earn less than $80,000 annually and have “typical assets” while students from families earning less than $30,000 annually would be eligible for free tuition and room and board, according to The Cavalier Daily, the student-run campus newspaper. The news came during the inaugural address of UVA’s new president, Jim Ryan, who said it was the first step in an effort to make the university easier to attend for first-generation and low- and middle-income students. UVA joins several other institutions, municipalities and states waiving tuition to help make higher education accessible to more students from a range of backgrounds as sticker prices rise.
What happens when you pay students to get ready for college? One state is about to find out, with help from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has a new tactic for helping more students get ready for college: paying them money as they take small steps in that direction. CZI is helping Rhode Island try out the strategy, aimed at high-scoring students from low-income families in the state. The program, called Rhode2College and announced earlier this week, will work like this: Starting in 11th grade, students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch and who scored well on the 10th-grade PSAT will be able to earn money by completing certain tasks. Those include creating a list of potential colleges, scoring higher on the SAT than the PSAT, submitting a federal financial aid form, and submitting college applications, according to the program’s website.