Friday, June 01, 2007

Making it plain in dot-edu land

In March I wrote that the highly-progressive pricing of college in the U.S. was heavily masked behind jargon and codewords -- but actually that concept seems to be coming out from behind the curtain a bit. The University of Chicago just joined the growing list of prominent institutions who are expanding and/or making plain the huge discounting that has long been available to families with lower incomes.

In the U. of C.'s case a $100 million anonymous donation has provided the immediate spur to a new policy: four years of college free for students with family incomes under $60,000. The university hopes to raise another $300 million to make this arrangement permanent and I have no doubt that in the current climate they'll find it.

Quoting that newspaper report: "About 20 universities nationwide—including Northwestern, Columbia and Harvard Universities—already have gone loan-free for students whose family incomes are below a certain threshold. A handful of schools, including Princeton University and Davidson College, have eliminated loans for all students." In reality those policies are only an incremental change from the practices of the last 30 years or so: it's long been true that only a minority of students at the top schools pay close to the full official costs, all the major colleges have been discounting based on ability to pay for decades. But it's certainly clearer and fairer to make that approach plain and simple, and the development departments appear to have caught on that hardly anything else is easier to lure wealthy donors with.


mem said...

Hi, just wanted to let you know that you've got a lurker. I've enjoyed your postings—it's good to see what's happening in the "dot org" land.

I've privately wondered about the cost of education myself; it's good to see some schools making it more affordable!

In any case, carry on.

Stephen Drone said...

THis is pretty interesting. I didn't know this.

This big donation is spurring U of I to seek even more than $100m. I wonder if they'll do the same thing.

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