Archive for September, 2009

Issues in College Access

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: Higher Education |

As parents and students try to determine their academic fate during these turbulent economic times, higher education is experiencing a phenomenon that many institutions are trying to capitalize on, while other institutions struggle to survive.

Many smaller, tuition-driven institutions, are using this economic collapse as an opportunity to re-evaluate their core values and identities as they try to take hold of a student market traditionally oriented toward large state and private institutions.  As tuition costs remain relatively high for private and large state schools, current and future students are forced to reconsider their original ‘cost-benefit’ analysis (how many loans can we take in order to graduate from a well-known school).  The rough economy has forced families to shy from the traditional approach and to look at cheaper alternatives as interest rates and rising tuition and fees costs become significant factors.

According to the September 28th publication in the New York Times, “student lending has been shaken by the credit crisis, which threatened to cut off the supply of student loans from private lenders by depriving them of a means of raising fresh capital*.” TRANSLATED: “higher quality students” are now applying/attending to public and smaller private institutions, forcing out those students who may not have had the GPA’s or SAT’s to be admitted into the large state or private institutions.  So what happens to this large population of students?

So now, we’ve got middle and upper-middle class families applying to ‘2nd-tier’ institutions, and colleges and universities are trying to profit from this new market.  School rankings are directly related to numerous factors, many of which are; average GPA scores, tuition & fees, number of applicants, alumni participation, and so forth.  So, these institutions are quickly re-evaluating themselves to determine how they can increase their school rankings by admitting these “higher quality students”, and essentially tossing away the garbage (“less-qualified students,” aka: first-generation families, low income, and racial/ethnic minorities).  What will happen to these students? Are they forced to attend community colleges and transfer into 4-year institutions? What are 2-year institutions doing to capitalize on this market? Marketing themselves as the ‘cheaper alternative’?

College access is an important component to the future development of our leaders, country, and global position.  If we are to remain a competitive country, we need to ensure we can provide a high-quality education to all students, regardless of their creed or affiliations.  The marginalization of underserved and underrepresented students in higher education will be detrimental to the development of these communities and to this country as a whole.  Where do we go from here? How do we solve this problem? President Obama has vowed his dedication to improving educational standards in this country…let’s just hope he doesn’t forget about this large populations of students and families.

* http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/student_loans/index.html

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