U.S. Institutions Struggle to Serve Low-Income and Minority Students Amid Government Skepticism

"As students and faculty return to college campuses this spring, they face a higher education landscape that is uncertain and volatile — and one that will be forced to grapple with opportunities and obstacles when it comes to meeting the needs of low-income and minority students in 2018," INSIGHT Into Diversity reports.

"While these challenges are familiar, recent federal legislation that reflects a growing skepticism of higher education is forcing institutions to find new and creative approaches to serving these student populations. A Gallup poll from August 2017 shows that only 33 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats have confidence in U.S. colleges, with Republicans citing curriculum as a major concern and Democrats citing the high expense of earning a college degree.

However, the federal tax plan passed by Congress in December has the potential to further raise costs— not only because of its tax of some universities’ endowments, but also due to the fact that it limits state and local tax deductions to $10,000. According to Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, this provision could drive citizens to demand that their state lawmakers cut taxes — which he believes would likely target higher education, resulting in a spike in tuition costs.

Responding to increased financial pressure and public criticism that they cater to the wealthy elite, many colleges and universities are adopting new business models that some argue may not serve their intended purpose of attracting low-income and underrepresented students. For example, last fall, Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif., adopted a new student finance model called income share agreements (ISAs) in which the university offers money to students in return for a portion of their future earnings. Jessica Thompson, policy and research director at the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success, told The Washington Post that the model is not ideal for low-income students as it will likely add more debt to their already heavy load."

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Publication Date: 1/12/2018

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