Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cut-Rate Ivy League

My latest column on Yahoo! Finance takes on the recent financial aid announcements by Harvard,Yale, and half a dozen top private universities.

I believe it's now time for families and communities to push for more accountability and transparency on the part of public institutions. Colleges need to show that they can be efficient in their use of resources and do more with less. Competition and smart consumer choices by students and families will ultimately be just as important to holding down college costs as contributions from the public and private sector combined.


Unknown said...

Anna - does this cut apply to law school or other masters/graduate degrees?


Anonymous said...

Anna, your article suggests that Harvard and Yale were the first ("leading the way") to provide no-loan financial aid among the Ivy League schools, particularly for lower-income student. However, this is incorrect. Princeton began giving no-loan scholarships to ALL their students (with no expectation of taking on loans) since 2001. In fact, the recent initiatives at Harvard and Brown were started because Princeton began this program.

Also, for all these initiatives, it is somewhat misleading to say that school will be free. Students at both Harvard and Princeton are still expected to provide a few thousand dollars in "self-help" usually by working. However, this is such a small percentage of the total tuition that this is not really the point.

Anyway, if possible, would you please correct this information on your column? As a former Princeton alum and a beneficiary of Princeton's financial aid program, it's sad to see people are falling into the "of course Harvard did it first" trap. They got there, but six years later than Princeton did. And they still expect their middle-class students to take out loans, which Princeton does not.

Anonymous said...

Princeton sucks

Anya said...

Hi Whitney--no, they are not cutting the price for graduate programs.

I mentioned Princeton in the piece. Princeton has been an innovator in financial aid for a long time. But the fact is that Harvard's announcement created much more of an updraft with other colleges following suit.

Anonymous said...

You're overestimating the rationality of the university system, and underestimating the degree to which prospective students are a captive market. People don't evaluate colleges with a view only to maximizing their quality of education per dollar spent. There's the matter of a school's reputation, which goes a long way to deciding the value of one's degree as a credential. A college education is a signal, and employers use it as a proxy IQ test based on your school's reputation (the main factor being not educational value but selectiveness).

Since the whole logic of this game is to sort the college-educated workforce into winners and losers, the actual means of assessing and ranking schools can be fairly arbitrary, provided that certain universities admit students more selectively, and certain others, less so. (I'm sure you're aware that the US News & World Report rankings sometimes even penalize a school for lowering tuition and improving efficiency.)