Tackling College Affordability: Criteria for a System Redesign

Lynn Russo Whylly's picture
Thursday, May 9, 2013

There is a lot of talk right now about the future of higher education, and particularly about how student financing should be redesigned within that new future. The main driver of this interest is the nation's dramatically increasing need for talent. With two-thirds of all new jobs requiring a postsecondary degree or other credential, but only about 40 percent of Americans holding such a credential, the talent gap is wide.

As we work to close that gap, we've already learned a few things that work to support students financially in their pursuit of postsecondary education. There are also some intriguing ideas emerging about what could work better.

We know that students, particularly low-income students, are price-sensitive, and that lowering the price of education generally increases access for underserved populations. However, we also know that students must first be aware of price inducements (i.e., grants, loans, tax credits or flexible repayment schemes) to benefit from them. Programs designed to make college more affordable won't work if students don't know about them or can't figure out how to navigate them. That's why college-financing programs must be simple to use -- and information about them must be clear and readily available.

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