Letter to the Wall Street Journal

March 20, 2007

Letters to the Editor
Wall Street Journal

Re: Op-Ed, "Higher Learning, a Tutorial," February 17

To the Editor:

Mr. Oppenheimer ("Higher Learning, a Tutorial," Feb. 17) fails to grasp the extent to which the higher education marketplace is fiercely competitive.  It is not by chance, but choice, that the private college and university sector continues to increase its enrollments annually, even in competition with highly subsidized public universities and stripped down proprietary institutions.

Students and their families choose private colleges precisely for the reasons that the underlying costs of these schools continue to rise: excellent teaching faculty, small and personal classes, significant student financial aid, first-rate facilities, direct engagement in all aspects of learning, high graduation rates, and successful lives after college which contribute to the public good.

Nonprofit private colleges and universities are not only mission driven, but market-smart.  They hold their own against their peer (i.e., competitor) institutions by carving out and promoting a unique niche in the crowded marketplace.  They serve the public by balancing a quality educational experience with affordable access to students from all backgrounds.  You can also add to that a critical component of higher education’s mission not found in the business world: making the product accessible to students, regardless of the size of their family’s bank account. 

The marketplace demands that private higher education be affordable.  Eighty-eight percent of our students receive some form of aid, and the average annual aid package is $17,000.  Private colleges have increased institutional aid by more than twice as much as tuition over the last decade—197 percent vs. 86 percent.  As a result, grant aid covers a greater proportion of published tuition prices now than it did a decade ago.  But even the full tuition at private colleges and universities only covers two-thirds of the institution’s instructional and other costs. 

Not one dollar is spent at a private college without considering how it will affect its educational value and place in the higher education marketplace.  To do otherwise would be a death knell.   


David L. Warren
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities


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