States increasingly moving to address higher ed affordability
- As less focus is placed on college affordability at the federal level, a number of states are renewing their attention on the topic, and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators notes that almost every state governor has highlighted the importance of higher ed and state funding in their "State of State" addresses this year.
- Among examples of how states are broaching the subject: Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has proposed creating a grant aimed at covering community and technical college tuition and fees for students pursuing "high demand" fields and agreeing to work in Arkansas for three or more years after graduating, while Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is pushing for a $15,000 bachelor's degree program from state institutions.
- Dual enrollment and early college programs, as well as expanded access to financial aid, have been a focus of numerous other states, and some, like California, are looking at affordability from a different angle — tackling student food insecurity by providing funding for campus food pantry programs and requiring higher ed participation in local food assistance programs.
College affordability has become an increasingly hot topic over the last few decades amid ongoing tuition increases, which have been tied to funding cuts at the state level. While an institution's "sticker price" is usually not what a student actually pays after grants and other available financial aid are factored in, Pell grant funding doesn't go quite as far as it used to, and the days when a student could conceivably pay his or her way through school with a part-time job have been in the rearview mirror for some time as postsecondary education is less subsidized.
Compounding the matter are critics' complaints that colleges and universities have a data inflation problem. Many institutions, they say, inflate job placement numbers, and withhold information around the "real" cost of attendance and costs of living around campus. With one a national survey by University of Wisconsin researchers showing a third of community college students, for example, go hungry and that 14% are homeless, institutions will have a fair amount of work cut out for themselves on the data presented to prospective students as state lawmakers address funding around affordability concerns.
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