Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Herald-Leader's Proof-Free Higher Ed Editorial

This morning's editorial about higher education started off badly:

Kentucky's low-income families must now devote almost a quarter of their incomes to pay for a community or technical college education, even with financial aid.

This is patently absurd and I would love to see them try to attach any legitimate numbers to this.

Of course, they are extolling the wisdom of freezing tuition costs and -- worse -- the proliferation of need-based financial aid.

To Kentucky's credit, the state has also been increasing need-based financial aid at a higher rate than the region or nation.

But even with the increased financial aid figured in, the sticker shock will price many Kentuckians out of an education.

The average Pell Grant is $2500 and the maximum is $4310. Full-time annual tuition at KCTCS is $2760. A student who graduates high school with a 3.0 GPA and gets a 21 on the ACT will receive $1250 a year in KEES money.

State and institutional grants and private scholarships combine to easily -- easily!! -- cover the total cost of education for needy families.

It's all this focus on need-based aid (and the lack of price sensitivity that goes along with it) that makes it tough for middle-class families to cover the cost of college.

Even a minor shift toward more merit-based financial aid would lower costs and improve educational outcomes for Kentuckians by requiring kids to get serious about school sooner and crowding people out based on lack of preparation rather than lack of ability to demonstrate financial need.