Undermining Affordability and Access to Higher Education

An “On the Issues” Post from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org]


A recent report from the New America Foundation highlights one important way access to higher education is closing down for low-income students. Even after Pell grants are factored in, the net cost of college for many of these students is still rising at an unacceptable rate.

Factors driving this trend are evident in the recent history of Baylor University, an institution that has “rebranded” itself, improved its ranking in college ratings, and upped the average SAT score of its students.

While more and more scholarship money at Baylor is going to affluent students to attract them, lower-income Pell recipient students are suffering from the effects of this shift: the average net price for Baylor students from families making $30,000 or less is now $21,370.

Unfortunately, as the report details, Baylor is not an outlier.

In fact, at hundreds of colleges, students have to pay at least half their families’ yearly earnings to attend–even after Pell grants and other scholarships.

While the increasing costs for low-income students caused by shifting scholarship money to “merit” programs and away from needs-based programs is most pronounced at private institutions, public colleges and universities, the report emphasizes, are also affected.

At a time when access to higher education is touted as a national goal, we need more honest assessment of the price we pay for failing to provide adequate public funding for higher education; and we need more action to change the national and state priorities driving these trends.

For suggestions on mechanisms to improve funding for higher education, see an earlier series of papers produced by CFHE titled “Funding Higher Education: The Search for Possibilities.”


Previous “On the Issues” Posts are available at the CFHE website or here:

“MOOCs, Pearson, and Profits”: https://academeblog.org/2013/05/01/moocs-pearson-and-profits/

“The Cold Facts about Higher Education and Contingent Faculty Appointments”: https://academeblog.org/2013/05/07/the-cold-facts-about-higher-education-and-contingent-faculty-appointments/

“More Bad Ideas on Higher Education from Florida”: https://academeblog.org/2013/05/09/more-bad-ideas-on-higher-education-from-florida/

“Who Needs a Liberal Education These Days?”: https://academeblog.org/2013/05/10/who-needs-a-liberal-education-these-days/

“Who Says College Can’t Be Free?”: https://academeblog.org/2013/06/07/who-says-college-cant-be-free/

“MOOCs: Are They about Access or Money?”: https://academeblog.org/2013/06/08/moocs-are-they-about-access-or-money/

“Adjunct Faculty Need Far Treatment in the Implementation of the New Healthcare Law”:  https://academeblog.org/2013/06/28/adjunct-faculty-need-fair-treatment-in-implementation-of-the-new-federal-healthcare-law/

“The ‘Business Model’ for Higher Education”: https://academeblog.org/2013/07/01/the-business-model-for-higher-education/

“Udacity/San Jose State MOOC Experiment Fails”: https://academeblog.org/2013/08/27/udacitysan-jose-state-university-mooc-experiment-fails/

“Big $$$ Foundations Are Driving the Policy Train”: https://academeblog.org/2013/08/28/big-foundations-are-driving-the-policy-train/

“American Higher Education: Separate and Unequal?”: “Pay It Forward”: https://academeblog.org/2013/10/25/on-the-issues-pay-it-forward/

“The End of History?”: https://academeblog.org/2013/12/12/on-the-issues-the-end-of-history/

“Unintended Consequences in the Race to Improve College Completion Rates”: https://academeblog.org/2013/12/21/on-the-issues-unintended-consequences-in-the-race-to-improve-college-completion-rates/

“Graduate Students and the Future of Higher Education”: https://academeblog.org/2013/12/26/on-the-issues-graduate-students-and-the-future-of-higher-education/

“’Ivory Tower’?  Think Again”: https://academeblog.org/2014/02/07/on-the-issues-ivory-tower-think-again/

“’Higher Education Misconceived’”: https://academeblog.org/2014/02/05/on-the-issues-higher-education-misconceived/

“Support Free Public Higher Education”: https://academeblog.org/2014/03/20/support-free-public-higher-education/

“What’s College For?”: https://academeblog.org/2014/03/30/on-the-issues-whats-college-for/

“Higher Education ‘Reform’: The Price Paid by the Next Generation of Students and Professors”: https://academeblog.org/2014/04/05/higher-education-reform-the-price-paid-by-the-next-generation-of-students-and-professors/

“Reinvesting in Higher Ed: A Lesson from Four States”: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/26/reinvesting-in-higher-ed-a-lesson-from-four-states/

“Questioning the False Promises of the Online Education Industry: A New Video Released by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education”: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/16/questions-false-promises-of-online-education-industry-new-video-released-by-campaign-for-the-future-of-higher-education/

“Great News Coverage of CFHE Video Awaiting Your Comments”: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/16/great-news-coverage-of-cfhe-video-awaiting-your-comments/

“CFHE 7th National Gathering Focuses on Affordable, Quality Higher Education for All”: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/11/cfhe-7th-national-gathering-focuses-on-affordable-quality-higher-education-for-all/

“The College Affordability Crisis: What’s at Stake”: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/12/the-college-affordability-crisis-whats-at-stake/

“The College Affordability Crisis: Real Solutions or Lip Service”: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/15/the-college-affordability-crisis-real-solutions-or-lip-service/

“What Helps Students Learn?”: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/23/what-helps-students-learn/

“Adjuncts, Faculty Working Conditions, and Student Learning Conditions”: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/02/adjuncts-faculty-working-conditions-and-student-learning-conditions/

Other posts related to the CFHE are available here:




2 thoughts on “Undermining Affordability and Access to Higher Education

  1. Pingback: Markets, Technology, and the Purpose of Education | The Academe Blog

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