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How to Make College More Affordable?

Williams and Education Experts Trade Ideas During UCSB Event


Thursday, October 10, 2013
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On Monday at UCSB’s Loma Pelona Center, education experts, students, faculty, and others concerned about making college more affordable and accessible presented several solutions — both short- and long-term and fiscal and non-fiscal — to Assemblymember Das Williams and members of the California Assembly Higher Education Committee.

The three-hour hearing included testimony from several experts from the California Student Aid Commission, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Institute for College Access and Success, and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).

<b>NUMBER CRUNCHER:</b>  Panelist Judy Heiman from the Legislative Analyst’s Office talks budget figures.
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

NUMBER CRUNCHER: Panelist Judy Heiman from the Legislative Analyst’s Office talks budget figures.

WICHE President David Longanecker kicked off the talk with a presentation, “The Case for Whopping Big Change,” in which he explained to policymakers that the demand for higher education currently exceeds the supply. Historically, California was able to pay and provide for every college student, Longanecker said, but the state is no longer wealthy enough to offer the “generosity it once provided to the public good.” The current funding approach, he said, cannot be sustained. To illustrate his point, Longanecker quoted eternal academic Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Calling California “average” in terms of per capita income and tax revenue, and “slightly above average” in higher education support, Longanecker suggested a “shared responsibility” in picking up the college tab between the state (through Cal Grants), the student (through part-time, minimum-wage jobs), the student’s family (when possible), the federal government (through under-utilized Pell Grants), and the institution that the student attends.

Another speaker, Dr. Jamillah Moore, representing both the California Student Aid Commission and the Ventura County Community College District, gave a presentation about the accessibility of Cal Grants: More than half of the 685,000 new and renewal students who qualified for an award received one.

Debbie Cochrane, representing the Institute for College Access & Success, used the Bay Area as a case study to demonstrate the distribution of Cal Grants. The maximum 1st year Cal Grant covers 8 percent of total costs for recipients attending Berkeley City College, 22 percent of total costs for recipients attending CSU East Bay, and 43 percent for those attending UC Berkeley. Although UC Berkeley’s tuition is roughly $7,000 more than that of CSU East Bay’s and roughly $11,000 more than that of Berkeley’s City College, cost of living for students attending any of the three schools is relatively similar, meaning community college students face substantial affordability challenges and are more likely to be underserved by state aid.

A few of the speakers supported higher fees and a stricter financial-aid model for community colleges to ensure students have access to classes they need to graduate on time. Williams recently authored a controversial bill — currently waiting for the governor’s signature — which would implement a trial period for six California community colleges, allowing them to charge about $200 per unit for certain high-demand classes. The bill’s opponents say higher rates for college classes put low-income students at a greater disadvantage.

“The longer it takes someone to do a four-year degree, the more likely they are to drop out, or the more likely they are to incur student debt,” Williams explained. “So affordability has to be looked at not just in the sense of tuition and fees. … We are putting them at risk. Affordability is meaningless if we don’t have room for the students to go at all.”

Representing state schools, CSU Channel Islands President Richard R. Rush spoke about the need for policymakers to restore funding. Tuition is fairly low for CSU schools, and the system has had to turn down 20,000 to 28,000 eligible students — roughly one out of 15 qualified applicants — because of lack of space. Rush also suggested public-private partnerships as a short-term option.

Textbook rentals, online materials, and strategic advising to saving money were presented as non-fiscal options to tackle lack of funding. Another non-fiscal solution was streaming lectures, which would free up professors and keep costs down. The problem with that potential solution, one public commenter later noted, was that the professor actually costs less than several teaching assistants required to teach discussion sessions and grade papers and exams.

Several students also spoke and “gave a face to the statistics,” speaking about their personal experiences. After the hearing, Williams said he was pleased with the turnout and solid ideas presented. He encouraged people to suggest ideas to policymakers as they have until January to draft new legislation.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

I have an idea, how about foreign students pay EXTRA so that anyone who lives around here can afford to put our students thru school? Just a thought. EXTRA means a lot more than they pay now.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 2:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Foreigners (International Students) already pay extra at all universities. Unless you count illegal aliens that pay resident rates subsidized by the taxpayer. It's the usual government SOP. Make those that obey the rules subsidize those that don't. And no, I don't hate illegal aliens, I just hate the policies that just promote more illegal behavior.

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 2:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

open source all school materials. every reference text and article required for the curriculum should be available in digital format for free to students.

StockiestCastle (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 2:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ironically the increase in prices of higher education has been due almost solely to the endless supply of government subsidized and guaranteed student loans.

As awesome as an education that one receives primarily for the benefit of their own intellectual fulfillment is, the state, aka the taxpayers should not be funding it. If a private entity wants to loan students money because they believe the return on their investment will benefit both the student and the investor, then go right ahead. But when you just write a blank check to education, your return on investment decreases substantially.. which, if you are a charity, then that is your choice, but now we are saddling students with this debt that they cannot pay and that isn't very fair to them when their whole lives they have been told that they have to get a college education to be successful and that is their only option.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 2:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ironically, the student loan program has contributed substantially to the dramatic rise in college tuition over the last decade. Colleges and universities raise tuition because they can, not because they need to. Cost and competition had previously kept a lid on tuition increases. But now, a student basically has the ability to borrow unlimited amounts of money to finance his/her education. The universities know that and act accordingly. Of course, the student often graduates with a six-figure debt and limited earning potential. Student loan debt is one of several debt crises we will likely need to deal with drastically over the next decade.

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 3:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What's he difference between Wall Street bankers and UC executives?

"It's the money that matters, in the USA"

Georgy (anonymous profile)
October 11, 2013 at 8:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

When I started my college education I went to a community college. It was inexpensive back then and the teachers who taught there were interesting and dedicated to the subjects they taught. Over the years I have seen higher education slide into a greedy self obsessed focus. I do not know how we turn this around. I do believe educators ought to be held accountable for their decisions. Especially when those decisions impact students' lives. I also strongly believe that community colleges should be available to anyone who wants to better their life through education. That is what they were created for.

johansendk (anonymous profile)
October 11, 2013 at 2:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The pain I always have in College is when professors assign required textbooks that would cost $200+ and then we would never end up using them and the professor would print off pdfs and worksheets from other sources. It ends up being a $200 paperweight. Recently one of my professors started using a company called FlatWorldKnowledge.com. I am a huge fan no complaints when a book cost $40 and I can read it on my kindle or ipad and make notes directly on my tablet.

Times are changing and I only see more and more online , PDF and affordable options.

rfranklin (anonymous profile)
October 15, 2013 at 6:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

nice post! colleges can be made more affordable if the students are studying via distance education system or are taking maximum utilization of the online writing services so that they can have a quicker academic career. http://termpaypers.com/buy-term-paper/ Regards: cathy

cathyswanson31 (anonymous profile)
January 16, 2014 at 10:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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