Letter to the Boston Globe

March 20, 2007

Letters to the Editor
The Boston Globe

Re: Editorial, "Harvard's fairness lesson," September 13

(Letter as printed in the Boston Globe September 18)

To the Editor:

The Globe can do its part to address public cynicism about higher education by giving its readers all the facts on college affordability (“Harvard's fairness lesson,” editorial, September 13).

The average list price for tuition and fees at private institutions this year is $21,235, but the average net price is roughly half that – $11,600, when grants and tax benefits are factored in.  In fact, over the past decade, grant aid increased 158 percent while tuition rose 74 percent. And students at private colleges and universities graduate with a federal loan debt surprisingly similar to their peers at public institutions.

All of this means that our students are as likely to come from low-income or working families, and from racial or ethnic minorities, as are students at four-year public universities.  Furthermore, they are twice as likely to graduate in four years.

Much of the aid that makes this possible comes from the private colleges themselves.  Today, these students receive over four times more grant aid from their institutions than from the federal government, compared to a virtually one-to-one ratio in 1984.  Meanwhile, Congress is on course to keep the maximum Pell Grant, which supports the neediest students, flat funded for the fifth consecutive year.  This is not the way to make higher education affordable for America’s working families.

Private colleges are reexamining early admissions, middle- and high-school outreach programs, and their student aid policies in tackling the challenges of shifting student demographics, growing need, and stagnant federal financial aid levels.  Colleges are rightly a part of the solution – but they can't do it alone.  For over 40 years, federal financial aid has made college possible for tens of millions of Americans from all backgrounds.  Congress must keep its commitment to needy students.  Their future, and the prosperity and security of the nation depend on it.


David L. Warren
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities


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