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Paying the Price

by Tod Massa 23. September 2016 21:04

I've been reading Sara Goldrick-Rab's "Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream." I have not had enough time to finish it yet unfortunately, so I will not give a review. What I will say is that I am pretty sure this should be required reading for anyone interested in financial aid policy. This is a solidly researched piece of work that looks at macro-level data and micro-level data. At the micro-level, Sara and her team followed six students for years through surveys and interviews. This qualitative research adds a much needed dimension that is missing in far too many policy studies. While much of the ground covered in the first chapters is familiar to us who work in higher ed policy, there are some fascinating nuggets. The information in Table 3 is one of my favorites and it comes from a survey of 2,100 students in her study. Here are a few samples:

  • 93% of students knew the difference between a grant and a loan.
  • 88% knew that financial aid package might change from year to year.
  • 58% knew that money a student earns from working during college is used in financial aid calculation.

I'm going to stop with that last bullet. "Paying the Price" covers many of the flaws with FAFSA and the federal need calculation. 

Concurrently, Sara Goldrick-Rab has announced the creation of The FAST Fund:

The FAST Fund is a short-term answer to this challenge. It’s aimed at getting students the cash they need to survive and stay in college. It’s also intended to provide committed faculty with resources to help their students.

 Faculty and Students Together. FAST.

Tressie McMillan-Cottom has written about The FAST Fund here as she has agreed to sit on the board. I think it is clear that there is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of money needed for financial aid. I think it is also clear that sometimes a lot of money is not what is needed to keep someone in school, sometimes only a little is needed.

Just a few reminders in data:

Sara will be on the Daily Show with Trevor Howard on Tuesday, the 27th. I look forward to watching it.

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