NAICU Letter to the Washington Post

December 02, 2011

Letters to the Editor
Washington Post

To the Editor:

While I agree higher education must continue to find new efficiencies, cut costs, and improve affordability (Editorial, "Some welcome steps toward reducing the cost of college," Dec. 2), I find it deeply disturbing that the Post buys into the urban myth that federal student aid is a college cost driver. Federal studies conducted during the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations*, and most education economists, have found no evidence that federal student aid fuels tuition increases.

The recent actions of private, nonprofit colleges also refute the myth. In the past three years, despite increased funding for Pell Grants, higher education tax benefits, and other federal student aid, our colleges have kept tuition increases to the lowest levels seen in decades (an average annual increase of 4.4 percent since 2009). Just as important, they have increased institutionally provided student aid at a faster rate over the same period, boosting aid an average of 7.6 percent annually. Inflation-adjusted net tuition and fees at private, nonprofit colleges have actually dropped by 4.1 percent in the past five years, according to the College Board.

At a time when billions of dollars in federal student aid funding is at stake, it is counterproductive for the Post to wrongly suggest that student aid is a cause for growing college costs. Without the continued federal investment in student aid, a college degree will be a lost dream for millions of low- and middle-income Americans. It is too important to the nation and these students to abandon them now.


David L. Warren
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Washington, D.C.

* Study of College Costs and Prices, 1988-89 to 1997-98, Vol.1, National Center for Education Statistics, December 2001; Straight Talk about College Costs & Prices, National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, February 1998

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