Author Dr. Gary Roth Joins NASFAA Readers Club Discussion

By Jayna Johns, NASFAA Communications Staff

Dr. Gary Roth joined the second meeting of the NASFAA Readers Club last week to discuss his book "The Educated Underclass: Students and the Promise of Social Mobility." Roth started the meeting with a short powerpoint presentation on the main points in his book, after which Readers Club members joined in to discuss their thoughts and how the book's information related to their experiences in financial aid.

In his presentation, Roth highlighted that as many as 1 in 3 college graduates are underemployed. College-educated applicants applying for spots that don't require a college education puts a downward pressure on the working class and working poor and "greatly complicates the equation of higher education with upper mobility," Roth said during the meeting. 

The cost of a college education coupled with underemployment compounds the issue. "For some, [an undergraduate] degree is a pathway to downward mobility," Roth said.

However, Roth told the group he is not arguing against higher education. In his view, the higher education landscape should undergo a reframing to include graduate education as an expected part of the pipeline. Currently, parents and students are seeing the struggle to afford college plus the lack of guarantee of adequate employment, leading them to forgo college entirely. Roth suggests instead that prospective students consider graduate plans as they weigh their undergraduate options. Graduate degree holders aren't seeing the same patterns of underemployment for their education level, making up for the added costs of pursuing a higher degree.

As Readers Club members shared their views, a theme emerged that was in line with Roth's findings. Knowing both the cost of an education and the potential struggle to find adequate employment in some fields, financial aid administrators at times find themselves struggling to balance what can be competing interests: what's best for a student and what's best for their institution. 

One member who is currently with a college that has seen notable success in upward mobility for its graduates remarked that discussing what's best long-term for the students is common and expected, even going as far as recommending the student attend  a different institution or delay enrollment. 

Others who joined the meeting said they haven't had the same experience, however, and instead have felt pressure to focus efforts on institutional revenue and enrollment needs over the long-term benefit for the student. Most agreed that they've felt improvement in recent years, especially as financial aid offices are being welcomed to the table more in discussions about enrollment management.

The NASFAA Readers Club provides a unique opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas with your professional peers. Be sure to join us for the next Readers Club meeting — details will be coming in Today's News announcing the next book and meeting date.


Publication Date: 3/18/2020

Gary R | 3/20/2020 8:4:09 AM

Thanks to Jayna Johns for the fine summary of my presentation. G Michael J focuses squarely on the dilemma students face. Additional education serves to make individuals more employable, yet collectively the result is to raise the bar for everyone. Only if the economy expands extremely rapidly is there a possibility for upward mobility for all. That hasn't been the case for some time already.

G. Michael J | 3/18/2020 11:8:22 AM

If I'm reading this correctly, I wonder about the idea that more students should consider pursuing graduate education. How would that not dilute the graduate degree the same way that appears to have happened with undergraduate degrees, contributing to the problem Dr. Roth describes?

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