Observations / Thoughts

Affordability and Tuition Reform

If you would like to read the original research on which I am reflecting, please read this article.

Three researchers, Catharine Hill, Gordon Winston, and Stephanie Boyd, evaluated the financial records for twenty-eight highly selective private universities to evaluate financial aid policies. Specifically, they focused on the records, prices, and costs for the 2001-2002 school year. They found that price as a fraction of family income is higher for lower-income students. They concluded that a school’s wealth heavily influences its pricing policy and the equality it is capable of extending to students across all socio-economic statuses.

This article will prove very beneficial to the reform I would like to suggest at TCU. The researchers of this study were very thorough in presenting their information and informing their readers about the considerations and practical knowledge that influence pricing policy at universities. This quasi-introduction to this area of study is necessary for my own examination of TCU’s current policies. Furthermore, this article expanded my understanding both of TCU’s present practices and of those exercised by other universities around the nation.I find it interesting, though not necessarily surprising, to see that “the lowest income students pay the largest share of family income” (Hill, Winston, & Boyd 778). Though these students may receive the most aid, this aid does not necessarily lighten the burden on their families to finance the expenses of college. This truth is a key concept that, I believe, many colleges must not fail to recognize and integrate into their policy decisions. Universities must realize that the total cost alone or the total percentage covered by the college alone is not the issue; families must be able to fit such an expense into their budgets. Even if they have received a sizeable percentage off of the sticker price, the final price may still be near impossible for them to responsibly manage. 

Hill, Winston, and Boyd also examine the influence of schools’ wealth on their pricing policies, declaring that “more wealth supports larger general student subsidies and those subsidies act, in turn, much like a wage payment to students for peer quality” (780). The problem, however, is that such policies can, and do, easily perpetuate inequality in the opportunities presented to lower-income students, because a well-known positive correlation exists between academic quality and family income. 

Though I could easily argue fervently in favor of financial reform without objectively examining such policy decisions, for my argument to be effective I have to understand all of the considerations influencing TCU’s financial policymakers, not just those that I, as a student, witness and have experienced.


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