Colleges and Universities and Letters and Opinion and Education & Workforce Development

College costs must be controlled

December 15, 2008

 [In response to the Dec. 8 editorial] On Dec. 2, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education released “Measuring Up: The National Report Card on Higher Education.”

This report indicates that Indiana has made some progress over the last two years, particularly in participation and completion, as more of our students are going to college than ever and graduating. However, much attention is being paid to Indiana’s F grade in affordability. It is important to note that 49 states received an F in affordability this year.

This draws attention to an issue that the commission is very concerned about: the rising cost of college.

Due to rising college costs, we are seeing more students working and increasing their reliance on loans and credit cards to finance their education. A recent study indicates that 80 percent of undergraduates work while enrolled in college at an average rate of 30 hours per week. In addition, nearly two-thirds of students attending public four-year colleges financed a part of their education through loans in 2004, compared to less than one-half of students in 1993. Also, approximately 56 percent of dependent undergraduates owned at least one credit card, with one in four using credit cards to pay for college tuition.

Although the cost of college impacts all students and their families, it is especially challenging for low-income students. In 2004, students from the lowest family-income quartile enrolled in college at half the rate of students from the highest income quartile.

The commission’s recently adopted plan, “Reaching Higher: Strategic Initiatives for Higher Education in Indiana,” proposes several initiatives that will help lower the cost of a college education. First, the 21st Century Scholars program has recently been expanded to provide eligible students in all middle-school grades with the opportunity to sign up. This program can provide a college education at an extremely reduced price to low-income students. We also support the governor’s proposal for the Hoosier College Promise, which can cover the full cost of attending Ivy Tech Community College, and significantly lower the out-of-pocket cost for students attending a four-year institution.

Our colleges and universities must do all they can to realize efficiencies, control costs, and realign institutional resources to support underrepresented students. When it comes to affordable college education, we can’t afford to fail.

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Stan Jones
Commissioner

I agree wholeheartedly with the article and the idea that state schools need to rein in tuition. However, there is something equally troubling going on; qualified in-state students being denied admission. I know of many local students who have been denied admission to Purdue and Indiana universities. These students have at least 3.0 grade point averages (on a 4.0 scale) with some being National Honor Society students with grade point averages above 3.7.

I realize that many factors, including record number of applicants and limitations on the number of students in certain programs, impact the admissions process. However, it is the mission (or should be) of state-supported universities to educate in-state students. No out-of-state students should be admitted until all reasonably qualified in-state students are admitted.

I am not interested in seeing university endowments grow while my taxes go up. I do not believe it is the mission of a university to see how much money they can stockpile. Educating the children of this state at a reasonable cost should be the top priority. While your article correctly states that tuition at in-state schools is quickly becoming unaffordable to many, consider the plight of those students who are denied admission and have to choose between a private school and an out-of-state public university at an even higher cost.

Years ago, many states required state universities to accept in-state students if they met certain minimum requirements. It is time for the state of Indiana to seriously consider such a mandate.

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Jim Keefe

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