Tuition Strategy Lacking

(Information excerpted from Inside Higher Ed)

Setting tuition at public colleges and universities is no simple task.

Governors and lawmakers approve different levels of state funding to subsidize higher education from year to year. Those same politicians are frequently unhappy with rising college costs, and they sometimes move to freeze tuition or cap its rate of increase.

tuition strategy

But flat tuition, if not accompanied by an increase in appropriations, can result in fewer sections and longer times to graduation, which is expensive for students and families. And because of the way many state aid programs are structured, public tuition rates can directly affect the amount of financial aid students receive.

In other words, setting public tuition is an exceedingly complex process involving numerous power centers. It’s a process with numerous possible unintended consequences for students’ ability to pay for college. Yet it’s a process that’s not even close to being standardized from state to state.

Most states don’t even have a single strategy for addressing affordability, according to a new report (http://www.sheeo.org/projects/state-tuition-fees-and-financial-assistance/2017-report) from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. SHEEO found that 68 percent of higher education agencies it surveyed had no unified affordability strategy taking tuition, fees and financial aid into account.

That lack of strategy comes even as four out of five states have put in place attainment goals for increasing the percentage of their residents with postsecondary credentials. As a result, SHEEO is calling for states to bring together governors, lawmakers, higher ed governing boards and college presidents in order to set tuition and fees in ways that line up with attainment goals.

Although SHEEO is pushing broadly for a balance to be found between the cost students pay and colleges’ revenue needs, it didn’t issue its new report to examine actual tuition costs in depth. Instead, it looked at the different ways states set tuition, fees and student aid by conducting a survey that received responses from 54 higher education agencies in 49 states.

Specifically, SHEEO is calling for policy makers to incorporate tuition policy into broader affordability and attainment strategies. Institutional revenue sources like state appropriations, financial aid and tuition should be coordinated, and more transparency should be established around institutional expenditures, the organization says. It also called for a multiyear approach to tuition policy – one that would not necessarily lock in specific tuition rates over a set number of years but would create a range of allowable increases over three to five years, allowing institutions, students and families to plan better.

There are still skeptics about the effectiveness of those strategies. Andrew Gillen, an independent higher education analyst, said increased coordination between policy makers could be worthwhile for some reasons. But he doesn’t think it will lead to a lower cost of delivering education or encourage third parties to shoulder more of the cost.

“The bottom line is that increased coordination doesn’t have much potential to reduce or reallocate costs,” he said. “And even if it did, it is unlikely students would see any of the benefit.”

There is also no guarantee that bringing different parties together would result in better coordination. Many players with power would be hesitant to give up the ability to set tuition, said Joseph Rallo, Louisiana’s commissioner of higher education. Different institutions also face vastly different situations.

Need a Little FAFSA Coaching? College Goal Sunday is Nov. 5

College Goal SundayOverwhelming is a good way to describe what it’s like to send your child off to college. Maybe you’re sad (or happy, no judgement) to have them out of the nest and discovering their first taste of independence. Aside from hoping they go to class and get an education that can set them up for a bright future, there are dorms to furnish and long-term decisions to make.

And all of that doesn’t include one of the most stressful aspects: how to pay for college.

One way to alleviate the stress of sorting through the financial aid process is by attending College Goal Sunday on November 5. Financial aid professionals will volunteer at 39 locations around the state to help students and families fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The document is required for students at most colleges and universities to be eligible for grants, scholarships and student loans.

While the FAFSA process can seem daunting or time consuming, students and families can fill out and file the form online in one afternoon with the help of professionals standing by.

College Goal Sunday is run by the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association (IFSAA) and is adding this November event in addition to its annual College Goal Sunday in February.

Interested? Here’s what you should bring:

  • Students should attend with parents or guardians (unless students are age 24 or older)
  • Parents should bring completed 2016 IRS 1040 tax returns, W-2 forms and other 2016 income and benefits information
  • Students who worked the previous year should bring their income information
  • Students age 24 and older should bring their own completed 2016 IRS 1040 tax return, W-2 Form or other 2016 income and benefits information
  • Students and parents are encouraged to apply for U.S. Department of Education FSA IDs at ed.gov before attending the event

A complete list of sites is available at CollegeGoalSunday.org. All sites will have online capabilities and many will offer Spanish language interpreters. Students who attend and fill out a completed evaluation will also be entered to win one of five $1,000 scholarships.

FAFSA: Five Important Letters for Student Financial Aid

Sixty-nine percent of first-generation college students believe they can’t afford college. The fact is that most of them are wrong. There are millions of dollars available to help Hoosiers pay for college. It all starts with FAFSA — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Filing the FAFSA is a must-do to qualify for most federal grants and loans, resources provided by the state of Indiana and support provided by colleges and universities. There is no cost to apply; it never hurts to try; it is the only way students can know their full financial aid eligibility.

Learn More Indiana doesn’t want any students unnecessarily missing the March 10 filing deadline. Human resource professionals should make sure their associates with college-bound students are aware of the opportunities. If you don’t play, you can’t get paid. Students and parents can learn more through the following:

  • College Goal Sunday, February 15 at 2 p.m. (local time), provides free assistance at 36 locations throughout Indiana for students and parents filling out the FAFSA. Hoosiers can submit their FAFSA online at any site. For more information, visit www.collegegoalsunday.org or call 1-800-992-2076
  • Learn More Indiana offers online step-by step instructions on how to fill out the FAFSA. In addition, Hoosiers can order a free publication, Indiana’s Guide to Paying for College: Step-by-Step Tips To Help High School Seniors Apply for Financial Aid, by calling 1-800-992-2076 or visiting www.learnmoreindiana.org.
  • FAFSA Friday is an additional push for families needing assistance with filling out the FAFSA prior to the March 10 deadline. On Friday, February 27, Learn More Indiana will connect Hoosiers to financial aid advisors through a statewide webinar. Students, counselors, teachers and parents can view the presentation and chat with financial aid advisors by logging onto www.learnmoreindiana.org/FAFSAFriday between the hours of 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.