Affordability, not price Confession of the Dean of a Community College

Every time I see a line that contains something so complex that I actually stop reading and exhale. This happened a few days ago with a tweet from Phi Theta Kappar CEO Lynn Tincher-Ladner. She Wrote:

“In a four-year college, the higher the tuition, the higher the completion rate. For community colleges, the opposite is true. “

I haven’t seen the information behind it; If anyone has, I would like a link.

I think the phrase struck me as sharply as it suggests that when it comes to college costs, we’re basically looking at the wrong thing. The bigger story is about public support and income stratification.

To see this, just look at the completion rate, tuition rate and family income levels in Ivies. They can charge upwards of $ 80,000 per year (including room and board), and their completion rate is in the 90’s. They draw unevenly from the richest families. Yes, some of them offer generous financial aid to low-income students, but they do not admit many. Among students with huge endowments, high tuition revenues, and unusually high social capital, they are able to get excellent results even if they charge more than the annual income of a Central American family.

In contrast, general community college titles have a graduation rate in the twenties, although Ivy charges a tenth of the tuition she does. (In some cases, they do not charge tuition at all.) The distribution of family income in most community colleges reflects much of the country as a whole; In some colleges, a solid majority of student organizations receive grants.

Putting the two sectors side by side makes the description of “students being paid” much more complicated. The ones that are being priced are usually at the lowest cost organization. In that light, it’s not really about price. It is about the resources available to students in the institution and their families.

Student loan default rates tell the same story. The default rate is highest among students with the lowest balance. They are usually students who drop out and walk away without a certificate. Those who borrow more for medical school are more likely to be able to repay it.

One possible response to Tincher-Ladner’s observation may be that community colleges significantly increase their teaching. In fact, many states have decided to actually try to eliminate public operating funds that were supposed to help keep tuition low. But increasing tuition on students who are already stuck is not likely to end well. If my college tuition doubled, I would like to see a dramatic drop in enrollment with the biggest drop from the most economically weaker students. The main variable is the economic weakness of the students.

In this light, combining concerns about affordability with the perfect tuition level is bound to lead to a fundamental mistake. Yes, of course, tuition is free. But that’s just part of the picture. Institutions need resources to help students succeed, and resources are needed to redirect students (and their families) from their paid work to academic studies. For those who have enough capital, even Ivy-level tuition is not a contract-breaker. For those with very little, even free education can be a struggle.

It’s about affordability, not price. If it had been otherwise, the graduation rate in Ivy countries would have been the lowest.

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