APLU Pres: Legislators must correct financial disincentive to educate low-income students
- Association of Public and Land-grant Universities President Peter McPherson said during a Wednesday Atlantic Live panel discussing "Higher Education at a Crossroads" that there is a financial disincentive for institutions to admit Pell grant-eligible students.
- McPherson said Ivy League and other highly selective institutions may steer clear of Pell grant-eligible students, because when you factor in the additional funds spent on more advisers and other academic supports, the cost to educate these students is greater than the cost to educate others.
- Not only are these students more expensive to educate, six-year graduation rates among this population are often lower, further disincentivizing institutions that may be focused on boosting performance metrics to preserve their state and federal funding.
Institutional leaders must acknowledge and embrace the notion that while there may be financial disincentives to educating Pell-eligible students, an increasing proportion of the population is low-income and first-generation, meaning there is a national imperative to get these students to and through college to secure the future of the national economy. As California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley said during Wednesday's panel, "we can talk about job creation all day, but unless we have a skilled workforce" to perform those jobs, we, as a country, still lose.
In the broader conversation about affordability and access, there is much to be gleaned from the model perfected by historically black colleges and universities and other minority serving institutions. These schools often get painted as underperforming on federal performance indicators, like graduation rates, but when controlling for the number of Pell grant-dependent students these institutions enroll, data show they have a higher success rate with graduating this population than any other institution type. Not only that, but tuition at these institutions is often lower than at peer institutions, and state and federal support has also traditionally been lower, meaning they are outperforming elite institutions, in terms of graduating low-income and minority students, with significantly fewer resources on hand.
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