While the cost of college continues to increase, financial aid is widely seen as a mechanism to create opportunities for students to gain access to higher education. But just the availability of financial aid as it stands will not solve the college affordability problem, according to new research published this week.
The article – written by Sara Goldrick-Rab of Temple University and Tammy Kolbe of the University of Vermont, Burlington – argues that the financial aid system as it is currently designed fails to address certain barriers to college access.
“We argue that these failures are due, in part, to policies that were built on a narrow set of behavioral assumptions about the role of pricing in individuals’ decisions to attend college,” the authors wrote.
Although financial aid – in the form of grants – is meant to reduce the sticker price of attendance for colleges, continual increases in college prices, a failure of investments in federal and state aid to keep pace with college costs, and declines in household incomes render current financial aid policies less effective than in the past, the authors wrote.
“As a result, many Americans are either priced out of college or are undertaking extraordinary measures, including amassing large amounts of debt, to obtain a college degree,” Goldrick-Rab and Kolbe wrote. “Low- and moderate-income students have been hit hardest by increasing prices, strengthening ties between household income and college attendance or completion. At the same time, the costs of funding subsidies to higher education have gone up substantially. The response has been widespread bipartisan criticism of existing federal financial aid policies.”
The authors identify four problems with the current financial aid system, including:
Goldrick-Rab and Kolbe proposed creating a new financial aid system with a clear and unambiguous approach, such as those found in universal models of financing.
“Shared pricing models, common to an entire community, require all parties to work together, and are simple to communicate,” the article said. “They are financed collectively, via progressive taxation, a relational approach that better aligns with the values of marginalized people. Social programs that benefit everyone, regardless of income, reduce the sense of unfairness among parties and improve social cohesion.”
Publication Date: 9/14/2016