Thursday, February 21, 2008

Free for the taking

The Los Angeles Times has two front page stories that are endemic of education today. First up is a story about Stanford University, which has pledged to use part of its $17 billion endowment to fully pay for tuition for students who come from families earning less than $100,000/year. This follows the move of other private universities with large endowments (Harvard, Yale, Pomona, and others) who have pledged to fund tuition for their lowest income students. While these actions are laudable, it is worth asking how many students are actually affected by these policies. At Stanford, 15-20% of students come from families who earn less than $60,000/year and Stanford has pledged to pay all fees for these students (room, board, and tuition). The truth of the matter is that the bread and butter of these schools are rich, often legacy, students with stratospheric family incomes. How else could they amass endowments greater than $1 billion? Its a nice PR move, but it doesn't change the imbalance in elite, private institutions which weighs heavily toward reproduction of cultural and economic elite.

The second article looks at the looming budget crisis in California's K-12 system. The budget see-saws in California have been a significant drag on the state's efforts to adequately educate its students. This most recent crisis, like most of the ones before it, will disproportionately affect students in poor, often urban districts. These are, ironically, the same types of students whom Stanford, Harvard, and Yale, are willing to give a free ride to. I guess the elite colleges figure that if a student is strong enough to make it out of Compton, for example, that should be worth something. How many students, however, are going to make it out of Compton, to stick with the example, to actually take Stanford et al up on their offers? When you do the math, you see how it is possible for these elites to make these "generous" offers.


1 comment:

Ken Radomski Ed175 said...

Brown University just followed the trend of the other Universities of making tuition free for families earning under $60,000. Financial aid and student loans are replaced with grants for students who come from families with incomes less than $100,000. However, tuition is increased by 3.9% to $36,928 a year. Add room and board and it is estimated to cost $47,740 for one year. That means frightening high tuition for anyone that doesn't fit the new financial aid plan.

Coming from a family that doesn't receive any financial aid, it would be inconceivable to ask my parents to spend nearly half the families income on my tuition. I just hope that they don't forget about the middle class, and let financial aid be given to anyone that is struggling.