Hi, I’m Sara Goldrick-Rab, currently a Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia, and formerly professor of higher education policy and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. You might have seen me earlier this month on the Daily Show! I’m the founding director of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s first laboratory aimed at improving equitable outcomes in postsecondary education. I’ve testified before the United States Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, as well as before many state legislatures. As mentioned in the headline, I’m credited with influencing the development of President Obama's proposal for free community college, Senator Tammy Baldwin's America's College Promise Act and Working Students Act, and Oregon's College Promise. I’ve contributed to many publications, including The New York Times, Washington Post, ,The Atlantic Brookings Institution, Think Poverty, Inside Higer Ed, and The Hill. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently named my Twitter account the most indispensable one to follow, and my most recent book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, was published by University of Chicago Press earlier this month. (Short video preview of the book: https://youtu.be/JXER0MQGadE) My studies reveal how broken the social contract is between society’s expectation that young people attend college, and the reality that awaits them there. The high price of college is literally driving them out of college.

Students from families earning less than $30,000 a year must come up with more than $8,000 a year for community college and more than $12,000 a year for public university, and that is after all grants and scholarships are awarded. Today’s prices mean that even Pell Grant recipients must accept loans and work in order to pay for a college degree that is by no means assured. Because of the inadequacies of student aid and the high cost of college, my research team and I observed students working multiple jobs instead of preparing for class, facing impossible decisions such as whether to buy books or milk, and enduring financial distress that rendered them unable to focus on school. The time has come for major reform. There has been much discussion in the media of a student loan crisis, but the crisis is larger than that. The bones of the college financial aid system are now more than half a century old, and it does not work with students in their efforts to obtain degrees. In my latest book, I propose several ameliorations, from changing the content and timing of FAFSA forms, to allowing more flexibility in how students can use their awarded aid money, to funding a public sector-focused “degree first” program. I also address how housing and food insecurity adds to the problem of college affordability. What’s not an option is doing nothing. Ask me anything!

Proof: https://twitter.com/saragoldrickrab/status/786385761243435008

Comments: 645 • Responses: 59  • Date: 

Wobistdu99126 karma

Isn't this all just a scheme to keep the financial aid debt circus running for Higher-ed, Inc and its cronies?

Between the expansion and lower cost of electronic information, transformations in library sciences, etc - yet look at the textbook monopolies, exploding college administration costs, tuition skyrocketing compared to normal inflation - all of this is seen as just another government economic intervention that kills markets leaving inflated costs - just like unaffordable health care for working families post Obamacare.

So a question. How can students expect to go into deeper debt when government policies also reinforce globalism - which deflates college graduate incomes amid a computerized job market? Look at the outsourcing of University of California IT jobs to H1-B visa workers.

Am I shadow-banned yet?

wakenbacons58 karma

If you federally guarantee college loans, schools will raise tuition! Can anyone explain to me how it could be otherwise?

2 years of tax funded community college is just an additional 2 years of high school, is it not?

sara_goldrick_rab38 karma

  1. Tests of your hypothesis have revealed that the influx of loan dollars does indeed drive up tuition-- but only in the private sector. There are many parties working to keep tuition low in the public sector, so the same result hasn't occurred. Indeed, this is one of many reasons why I don't think we need to continue spending billions on loans for students to attend private colleges. Would you be willing to cut private colleges off?

  2. How does the funding source of education change the level of education, in your mind? Funding four years of high school didn't make high school the equivalent of middle school.

dcbcpc12 karma

I would be very interested to see the studies for your point (1). My evidence is anecdotal, but my state college's tuition increased about 30% since 2010.

sara_goldrick_rab17 karma

The fact that your state's public institutions have raised tuition is real-- but not caused by loans, rather by the withdrawal of state funding, which had been offsetting tuition. I explain all of this in clear terms in the first few chapters of PAYING THE PRICE, in case you're interested.

A good overview of the relevant studies:


yogaballcactus8 karma

I have two questions:

1) What is driving the increased cost of public universities, if not the ease of borrowing money to attend?

2) Even if the federal government backing student loans doesn't directly increase tuition costs, wouldn't making it more difficult to borrow money to go to college force tuition prices to drop? I mean, you can't really charge $20k/year if no one has $80k put aside for college and no financing is available, right?

Solving the student loan crisis we already have is obviously going to be difficult and painful. But it seems to me that not lending students more than they can afford to repay, based on their major and GPA, and making student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy would prevent it from getting any worse.

sara_goldrick_rab19 karma

  1. The COST of education at public universities is not rising much, actually. What's rising is the PRICE-- what you as the consumer pay. Your price is rising because the state, which used to offer you a discount by funding appropriations to public universities, has been steadily withdrawing that support. That means that they passed the buck to you-- probably without you even knowing it. Please see the opening of PAYING THE PRICE for more on this.

  2. Good questions. First, many colleges are charging WAY more than people can actually pay, and way above federal loan limits. They continue to do so because they need only find a small but very wealthy constituency to support them. Second, removing student loans may decrease prices in the private sector but won't do much in the public sector since it won't restore state funding to higher education. It will just mean more people won't be able to afford college.

The purpose of student loans is to ensure that people who will benefit from college are able to attend, even if they don't have money. So that in the long run, they will have money and taxpayers won't have to support them! People with less money tend to also have lower GPAs and have received inadequate k-12 schooling. If you condition access to loans on their choices, you will end up lending to very few of them-- defeating the purpose of the loans in the first place. You can diminish the number of students have trouble with loans, yes, but you won't have made this a more productive, educated nation-- in fact quite the opposite.

sara_goldrick_rab11 karma

What's the "it" you're referring to as the scheme?

I am certainly not suggesting students go into deeper debt.

Krystal_Thorn-8 karma

Some AMA huh? Guess she won't answer tough questions, like how they expect to pay for a bunch of underwater basket weaving classes for sjw's.

sara_goldrick_rab24 karma

Excuse me but I was scheduled to do this from 10am-11am EST, then to do a radio interview on Sirius XM, and several phone calls. They just concluded, I have 15 minutes free, and am back to answer questions. I will return from time to time -- I assume you don't want a taxpayer funded professor sitting idly by waiting for questions to come in, do you?

orangejulius118 karma

The cost of Universities, and law schools in particular, seems to reflect the availability for student loans more than it does the market for jobs. One of the consequences of making loans more widely available is the steady increase in the cost of education to match the maximum amount students can receive in loans.

The bankruptcy courts are extremely hostile to bankrupting out of student loans and student loans account for an absurd amount of debt in the United States.

Do you think we should change the bankruptcy code to allow more students to bankrupt out of debt?

What do you think of the idea of shifting the burden of those bankrupted loans back to the institutions that granted them? For law schools in particular, it seems like it would correct to the market for available legal jobs, for example.

sara_goldrick_rab13 karma

On the first issue-- the relationship between tuition and loans-- please see my response here (https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/57ad3f/im_a_leading_higher_education_expert_obamas/d8qi1pi)

On the second issue, the bankruptcy protections, this all has to do with how to distribute the risk involved in making these loans. It's hard to do. Imagine if the federal government went into the red trying to make the loans? It would be attacked, the loans ended, and vulnerable people wouldn't be able to pay for college. I favor changes to the bankruptcy code for students demonstrably wronged by the system ,but also recognize how hard this would be to operationalize.

orangejulius13 karma

A fair number of academic institutions are not placing students in jobs / careers that can service these loans. That seems like a demonstrably worse situation than someone who simply enters a trade instead. Right?

I keep using law schools as an example because they seem to be the worst offenders—law schools don't teach how to practice and don't prepare for the bar exam. The industry is packed with attorneys and most will not be capable of servicing their loans or entering the legal profession. There's zero reason that their tuition kept pace with medical students who at least can point to the increased cost in specialized medicine from 100 years ago to present.

Maybe it's time for some programs to shrink to shift students to programs that have job / career availability? There needs to be some check on that sort of abuse.

Universities are certainly far from innocent in exploiting vulnerable people capable of getting massive student loans.

Edit: thank you for your reply. You're doing a great AMA and as a mod here it's super refreshing seeing such comprehensive answers. :)

sara_goldrick_rab12 karma

There are some bad apples, to be sure. Some of them are law schools. The public policy question is how to deal with bad apples. Do you allow a few in so that you can keep the system as simple as possible, or create more bureaucracy and rules to try and weed them out?

A related question: There is currently a monetary incentive for for-profit private colleges and universities to offer low-quality education at a high price. When we will stop that? Answer: It's very hard to do since their lobbyists are funding our Congresspeople.

ps> Thanks

EconomistMagazine9 karma

Can you edit to link to your "response above"? It is no longer obvious which consent you're referring to.

sara_goldrick_rab21 karma

Ah, good ask- I'm new to Reddit-- figuring this out and doing it now!

Cali2Colorado2 karma

I don't know what you mean by "demonstrably wronged", but I think I disagree with this. The only time bankruptcy should ever be allowed to discharge student loan debt is when no terminal degree was completed (I.e. The student flunked out). An education will follow you until the day you die; it's not the same as discharging a mortgage or an auto loan.

sara_goldrick_rab8 karma

So you are in favor of discharging debt for the 50% of Americans who don't finish college? Even I wouldn't go that far.

I meant students who attended institutions we allowed taxpayer funding to support without doing our due diligence to ensure that they were safe to attend.

TheTrueLordHumungous81 karma

You compared the Governor of Wisconsin to Hitler over the elimination of tenure. Do you still believe repealing a state law protecting tenure is just like invading Poland and gassing millions of Jews?

sara_goldrick_rab3 karma

This is false. I made no such comparison. I expressed interest in a comparison someone else made, and it had to do with facist tendencies, nothing more. Interestingly, I may have been ahead of my time, since people regularly say these things about Trump now.

JoeyGoethe25 karma

1) Prof. Doug Weber argued recently (source) that almost all of the rise in college tuition costs is attributable to the defunding of universities by state governments. Do you agree that this is the main cause of rising tuition costs? Is is really plausible to think that we can bend the curve on college costs unless we make up this shortfall?

2) My experience teaching at university has left me really concerned that the defense of rising tuition costs as an investment in human capital changes the relationship of students to university. As Sefan Collini has argued in the London Reviw of Books on numerous occasions (source), in the British context it changes university to a commodity that students purchase that should reflect their (present) interests and desires, rather than a precious opportunity to expand their horizons. Do you expect that your proposed changes will do anything to alter this new dynamic between students and education?

sara_goldrick_rab16 karma

  1. Yes, my colleague Doug Webber at Temple is exactly right for the public sector, where most people attend college.
  2. I agree completely with your assessment and discuss it at length in PAYING THE PRICE.

Nht223 karma

How will free college change the value of a degree that was paid for by the student?

sara_goldrick_rab16 karma

Request for clarification -- do you mean the economic value or the social value, or both?

gdpoc6 karma

Could you start by providing qualitative studies on economic ROI for time invested? Using an HVAC specialist as an example: If our universe diverged and one universe offered a free two year degree in HVAC design while the other universe did not what differences in quality of life would a student see? Would we expect to see salaries change as a result? Would the decrease in education cost increase the pool of skilled labor and devalue the skill?

sara_goldrick_rab13 karma

The primary returns to education are not strictly economic, they are social. More educated people tend to be more steadily employed with more stable lives, helping communities grow, enjoying better health, etc. Would the economic returns dip for individuals in saturated fields? Yes. Would that mean they experienced no return to their degree? No.

tegu530921 karma

Many people I know who have degrees either don't use them or are in jobs that don't require them. Wouldn't it make it cheaper if you simply stopped telling everyone they need a degree when the fact is they don't?

sara_goldrick_rab4 karma

How many people do you know who are economically secure, in good health, and living a stable existence who do not have a college degree of any kind (associate, certificate, or bachelor's)?

rymden_viking18 karma

What is going to be the incentive for schools to keep costs down? If the government keeps paying whatever schools ask, what's to stop a large rise in costs over time? This is already an issue and nobody is acknowledging it.

sara_goldrick_rab17 karma

Actually, this is entirely acknowledged. The current system does almost nothing to control costs. See my proposal for cost control in here: http://wihopelab.com/publications/Redefining_College_Affordability.pdf

Manliest18 karma

Who's going to pay for the first two years?

sara_goldrick_rab23 karma

I've written about a plan that simply reallocates existing dollars from private institutions to public ones. That's meant to demonstrate that there are options-- raising taxes is but one possibility. For more see: http://wihopelab.com/publications/Redefining_College_Affordability.pdf

SenorPretentious17 karma

Hi. I am Navajo and had some specific questions about the reservation.

On the rez, people tend to be sorted into people going to college and those who are not. Those that are, areally bombarded by the multitude of scholarship's and programs available to natives, and are generally mentored through high school to college.

Another aspect of the rez is the lack of community colleges and trade schools. While dine college and San Juan college have increased the education they offer, many native students still have to travel hundreds of miles, increasing the cost of housing and living for those students.

Is there a good way to increase secondary education on the rez, specifically for community colleges and trade schools?

sara_goldrick_rab14 karma

Tribal colleges are often two year schools. I would not recommend generalizing beyond the Navajo to make assertions about other tribes. The College of Menominee Nation is a terrific two-year school. You might also be interested in the discussion of the Oneida student in PAYING THE PRICE.

Krystal_Thorn16 karma

I believe providing public subsidies for higher education is a bad idea for several reasons. First, I've taken out a lot of student loans, but I'm pursuing a degree in engineering. Therefore I expect to have the means to repay the loans. The only people I see benefiting from free college are those who cannot pay back their loans. Why should the public subsidize these degrees if they don't benefit the degree holder sufficiently. Another objection I have is that it cheapens college degrees if they're free. Third, how do you expect to pay for this new entitlement program?

sara_goldrick_rab18 karma

  1. This country has benefitted tremendously from having experts in many areas of study. English majors have become some of our most successful citizens. If we limit their choices with high prices, we'll pay for it in the long run. What makes you think you could repay loans on an engineering degree, by the way, if your plans produce a glut of engineers?

  2. Making college degrees free certainly makes the price cheaper but it does not reduce the quality as long as the resources currently provided by students are instead provided by the government.

  3. As for questions for how to pay, I responded to that above.

milangdo11 karma

Do you support the confiscation of 529 plans in order to support free 2 year education for all?

sara_goldrick_rab27 karma

No one has proposed this-- confiscating would mean taking private citizens' money. Definitely not. There's no need for it.

OnCompanyTime14 karma

Is this a proposed solution? The government taking ownership of privately owned 529 savings accounts and using them to pay for everyone?

milangdo10 karma

Obama proposed this in his state of the union a few years back.

sara_goldrick_rab16 karma

That is false. He made no such proposal. He proposed funding two years of community college-- nothing to do with confiscating 529s.

89grouch468 karma

Is there a student loan crisis going on?

sara_goldrick_rab14 karma

In short, yes. While I don't think it's the crisis that most people are talking about, I disagree with the wonks who say "there's no crisis here, most people are fine." Here's why:

Millions of people report major concerns with student loans. Either they've all been fooled, are terribly poor at assessing their own situations, or they are on to something. I love numbers as much as anyone, but the administrative data being used to assess the existence of a crisis is extremely limited. It's mainly about effects on consumption (who buys a home, etc) and life transitions (getting married). But that's hardly where I'd expect the crisis to exhibit its effects. The crisis is that the risk of attending college has been elevated to the point that people today are attaining less than they should-- and that tomorrow, many of today's students will become parents who discourage their children from attending college. That's the longer-term implication of college unaffordability today, and student loans are an indicator-- a symptom.

In social science-- including economics-- we don't know about what we don't measure. It's awfully presumptuous therefore to conclude that there's no evidence of a crisis by examining a very small number of outcomes.

That said, I'm way more concerned about people with debt and no degree, who often have relatively little debt but it's big to them-- than I am with people who have multiple degrees and tons of debt. Public policy ought to prioritize forgiving the loans of Pell Grant recipients for whom debt is extremely risky-- they were never supposed to have to take loans in the first place-- and focus far less on lowering interest rates. Lowering interest rates won't improve educational attainment or change the effects of the loan for people with lower balance yet also low incomes.

tuh-racey7 karma

What are your thoughts on privatization of auxiliary services provided by state institution? (food services, parking, health centers, mental health counseling, etc.)

sara_goldrick_rab8 karma

It's happening everywhere as public universities try to save money as they are defunded.

Higheredmcgee7 karma

What college president is the most overrated? Who do you respect on commitment to these issues, - and who is a total joke?

sara_goldrick_rab16 karma

Here are some presidents I think very highly of:

  1. Eduardo Padron of Miami Dade College and Pam Eddinger of Bunker Hill Community College for their commitment to providing services beyond financial aid to all students who need them.

  2. King Alexander, Louisiana State University, for his willingness to speak and act boldly about both the federal and state changes needed to make college affordable. He once said that he wouldn't argue for an increase in the Pell until we "shut the back door"-- meaning stopping states from cutting appropriations in response.

  3. Daniel Porterfield, President of Franklin and Marshall College, for being the only private college president I know of who says that priority #1 on an affordability agenda ought to be making public higher education free. Now that's a selfless individual!

  4. Michael Sorrell of Paul Quinn College, who dug up his college's football field and replaced it with a garden.

  5. Nancy Cantor of Rutgers University, who has raised sharp and essential questions about what counts as "merit."

On the other hand, I am on record with serious concerns about Biddy Martin, President of Amherst College. I got to know her well during her tenure as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and observed a sizable disconnect between her professed commitments to first generation and low-income students and her actions (engaging in a failed high-tuition/high aid policy, recruiting international students, praising students for raising their own tuition, etc). First-generation student enrollment has fallen steadily at Madison since she started there. Clearly, being a first-generation student yourself hardly makes you an expert on how best to serve those students. I was entirely unsurprised when she bailed on UW-Madison after a very short tenure, and went off to wealthy Amherst. I'm not impressed by her efforts there-- it is not difficult to achieve a high percentage of low-income students on campus when you are tiny to begin with and have an extraordinarily large endowment. Sure, it's nice that she's "willing" to allow them on campus - while many of her peers do not-- but I do not believe that deserves accolades or million dollar prizes.

The college president to watch? Michael Schill at the University of Oregon. He's among the most ambitious leaders I know who really understands what it takes to make college affordable, and he genuinely respects the faculty role in that process. I can't wait to see what he does there.

idahodog7 karma

How does the government paying for two years of tuition differ from me paying my own tuition? If the government pays, at some point they come after me via taxes and force me to pay EVERYONE's tuition, plus all the middlemen and administrators that the government adds to the bureaucracy. Besides that, eventually I finish paying off my student loans, but under this plan I will NEVER finish paying. The government will be coming after me as long as I live making me pay them money to pay off everyone else's tuition plus all the bureaucrats. Isn't that even worse than having my own student loans to pay off?

sara_goldrick_rab14 karma

  1. No, there will be far fewer administrators in this program compared to the current aid system.
  2. Focus not on what you pay but what you GET relative to what you pay. Your neighborhood and local economy is struggling for lack of education workers. You benefit quite a bit from those around you having college degrees.

bentl6 karma

What was your own experience gaining higher education through debt management? Can you relate to the crisis and struggle or more so empathize.

sara_goldrick_rab27 karma

When I went to college, we were too "rich" to get aid and too "poor" to be able to afford it. I benefited from a tiny bit of savings, tuition remission (because my mom was an adjunct), and I worked 40 hours a week as a waitress to avoid having to take on debt. That plus a little help from my grandfather meant no undergrad loans. In grad school, I did take some loans, and paid them off midway through my tenure track. I understand how hard it can be to make ends meet, though don't know what it's like for the debt payment to crowd out other spending. However, I postponed home ownership and marriage (and kids) until my 30s because I was in grad school & couldn't afford it. All that said: The most important thing I do in my work is spend time with people who DO have these experiences and I listen hard to them. I believe that allows me to see and understand things others miss.

bentl8 karma

Love what you said, "spend time with those that DO"! That says a lot about your compassion and why your research is so powerful. There are so many gaps with education inequality. Your own experience is like many others.

How do you think a person's support system impacts their debt acquisition? For example, a single mother or someone who is already homeless and without familiar support?

sara_goldrick_rab19 karma

I think we are shoving vulnerable people with little support into debt by offering them no route out of poverty except via a too-expensive college system. It's unconscionable.

piratebabygirl6 karma

Where do these per year cost numbers come from? I'm currently in community college. My tuition and books for this semester, 5 classes, was roughly $2000(covered by pell grant). What is the remaining $5000 expense for?

Will making community college free equate to an associate degree becoming the new high school diploma? (If majority of people have it, then it's value is considerably diminished)

sara_goldrick_rab3 karma

The cost of college, by federal definition and students' lived experiences, includes the following: tuition, fees, books and supplies, transportation, medical costs, housing, food, and other necessities like clothing. If you'd like to see how community college prices vary across the country and why averages are dangerous, please see. http://wihopelab.com/publications/Wisconsin_HOPE_Lab_Policy_Brief%2016-01_Is_Community_College_Already_Free.pdf

As for the other question, I addressed it above.

bentl6 karma

What are your thoughts around the tuition differences between community colleges in the U.S.?

What advice would you give a student who has been taking on debt to obtain an education and now has to choose to take on more debt to obtain a PhD or walk away with a master's degree?

Thinking about the outcome you want the most, what would our educational system look like, Sara?

sara_goldrick_rab19 karma

  1. Tuition differences between community colleges are minimal within state, and lie mainly between states due to different levels of state funding.
  2. Generally, I would not pursue a PhD at my own expense these days.
  3. The system would have a high-quality public option for education at all levels, p-20.

PRAISEninJAH11 karma

There are some misguided/misinformed people in this thread downvoting you. I would like to personally thank you for being a strong voice in this conversation. Whether I agree with your proposals or not, I think it is incredibly important to not only acknowledge this problem, but offer solutions. There are many loud voices in this debate, but few offer such concrete plans.

sara_goldrick_rab12 karma

Thank you.

MATERlAL5 karma

What is your opinion of the Governemnt guaranteeing student loans?

sara_goldrick_rab11 karma

It's preferable to paying private banks to do it. Cutting out the middleman saved taxpayers a fortune.

DrMatthewC4 karma

From a survey I recently received:

If you had $100,000, how would you use that to address basic needs of your students? (Choose your top 3) Full-time staff member Emergency fund /grants program Purchase Meal or housing vouchers Fund/establish a food pantry/cupboard on or around campus Fund scholarships Develop an Request for Proposal for campus community to further support efforts addressing students basic needs Fund research for students, faculty or staff Fund a new program (provide details in "Other") Other:

sara_goldrick_rab11 karma

Depending on sense of the number of students needing support (not knowing the college here is hard) I would focus on hiring a full-time MSW to do case management, train them to assess students for benefits access (e.g. SNAP, housing, etc), give them a small budget for emergency aid, and work with the community to setup a food pantry.

89grouch464 karma

What inspired you to study the challenges students face paying tuition?

sara_goldrick_rab7 karma

I've always been interested in income inequality and how people survive poverty. It takes so much work. I started asking questions about how lower-income people attending college make ends meet, and that led me to question how they cover college expenses-- including but not limited to tuition.

Sarahlorien4 karma

As someone who is a dependent but their parents make a combined $150,000 so I'm not eligible for subsidized loans, but I still pay for my own school, are there going to be any changes for taxes in loans for people in my situation?

I get taxed 9% on $5k a year loans, and because it's unsubsidized and I make minimum wage I get taxed faster than I can earn. They even send me an email with it rising every time "Your loans increase at $1.64 a day!"

sara_goldrick_rab10 karma

I think your situation-- too "rich" to get aid, too "poor" to afford college-- is exactly why offering you free tuition at public colleges and universities is a good idea. You'll have to borrow, but much less, and you will be more likely to graduate.

denni-9th4 karma

Do you know about the "fees must fall" protests currently happening in South Africa? If so, do you have any advice on how to resolve the situation, or an opinion on the matter?

sara_goldrick_rab19 karma

I'm extremely interested in this movement and it's one of my goals to learn more about it. I'm insufficiently informed to have an opinion yet.

thatboybevo3 karma

If this were put in motion, would this affect students who went to community college in the past?

sara_goldrick_rab4 karma

Would what affect them? e.g. would they be repaid?

Mem_Grizz3 karma

I am a senior at a four year public institution a (20k plus students) and have a "full academic scharship" plus another leadership scholarship. I used to be able to go to college for free but the past two semesters I've had to pay 2.5k in tuition. My question is, with rising tuition cost (on a yearly bases) why aren't scholarships being adjusted? To put it in better perspective the way they increase tuition without "increasing tuition" are course fees. While I'm in more specialized senior level classes there shouldn't be all these hidden course fees.
Thank you for the AMA. I mean this question in a respectful manner.

sara_goldrick_rab3 karma

You're not alone! Many students find that their price of college rises as they move through school, and they are caught off-guard. There are tons of hidden fees, too. I wrote this piece on the Real Price of College that might interest you. https://tcf.org/content/report/the-real-price-of-college/

Unnecessary_Timeline3 karma

I am an administrator at a state university. I graduated in May 2015 and was lucky enough to start a career with the University I attended. I myself have $27k in federal student loans that I am trying to pay off in a timely manner.

I knew when taking this position that, should the higher ed "bubble" pop or should reform come, I may be out of a job. If reform comes, what kind of changes are we university administrators looking at? What departments could be getting the axe? What kind of reductions in staff can we expect?

sara_goldrick_rab3 karma

This is a good and thoughtful question, thank you. Under a shift to free public higher education, I am really not sure that you would be out of a job. Rather, I think that the type of job may shift. For example, if you are a Dean of Student Services your job may come to include more training on case management, and you may benefit from social work skills. If you're in the public sector, or willing to work in the public sector, expansion of opportunities ought to occur.

On the other hand, we can clearly see the changes from neoliberal policy reforms that simply aim to cut costs, regardless of long-term impacts. If those aren't reversed, all sort of public workers-- and more importantly communities across the country, will be harmed.

AaronCamp3 karma

Dr. Goldrick-Rab, thank you for holding this AMA session! I will ask you two political questions, one of which involves higher education, and one non-political question.

1) In a recent interview for the Pacific Standard, you stated that Donald Trump's higher education affordability plan (I'm using the term "higher education affordability plan" very loosely) as "...reiterating what is basically a really common myth that if we just pull back on student loans in this country, we would have lower prices.", and you also said that Trump's plan "makes no sense". While I agree with your criticism of Trump's views on student loans, I'm confused by your use of the phrase "pull back on student loans". By "pull back on student loans", were you referring to abolishing student loans entirely, abolishing federal student loan programs, or something else?

2) What are your thoughts about Katie McGinty, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania?

3) What is your favorite sport, if any?

sara_goldrick_rab9 karma

  1. Donald Trump is in favor of returning the job of originating federal student loan lending to private banks and he is also in favor of "risk-sharing"- -which puts colleges on the hook for how borrowers do in repayment. Both of these things are not good for the vast majority of Americans:

a. The switch to direct lending (from banks to government originating loans) saved taxpayers a lot of money, which was then plowed into the Pell Grant program. The loss of those resources would be devastating. b. Federal student loans are an educational policy not a typical financial product. Apart from PLUS loans, they are not subjected to credit checks, and are often made to people who are "risky" bets for loans-- and this is incredibly important because it allows those loans to capitalize those without capital. Even Milton Friedman understood that the poor would need access to these loans to build human capital. A move back to private banks-- and in particular a move to risk-sharing-- could easily facilitate a move towards discrimination in lending. This is already happening with community colleges who decline to participate in the federal student loan program, out of fear that their students will not repay and they will be held responsible-- and I think it would get much, much worse. I agree with those who think it's terrible that so many parents have to take on loans for college, but the solution isn't neoliberal paternalism-- cutting them off using credit checks. The solution is making college affordable so loans aren't required. We learned this lesson during the Obama Administration when restrictions on Parent PLUS loans were put into place, and enrollment among African Americans dipped.

  1. I don't have any opinions about Ms. McGuinty as I haven't had the opportunity to get to know her.

  2. My favorite sport is whatever game my kids want to play with me, which these days is OgoSport :)

jjjjoey2 karma

Do you worry about the possibility that lowering the cost of college might also lower the over all quality of college?

sara_goldrick_rab4 karma

Of course, and I have written quite a bit on how to avoid that, for example by stipulating to the uses of federal dollars-- focusing them on things that matter for quality. See here: http://wihopelab.com/publications/Redefining_College_Affordability.pdf

kirkisartist2 karma

When I went to CC there were some logistical problems. The pre-requisite courses were always booked solid with a backlogged wait list. Many of the profs were very talented and some weren't qualified at all.

It's not that the school was underfunded, it's that there was a limited pool of talent space and time.

How would this program compensate for the logistical issues that will come once tuition is free? And the added problem of removing tuition from funding?

sara_goldrick_rab2 karma

The issues you described are common when schools are underfunded, so I'm curious why you believe the issue was limited talent, space, and time independent of funding levels?

Hylt22972 karma

Another question; I am from a middle class family, too much income for grants, but nowhere near enough to actually pay for college.

1) why does the government use my parents income? Why do they think my parents should be responsible for my education when I'm a legal adult at 18.

2) why can't people from poorer families take loans too and allow the grants to reach higher income families (the middle class) as well? We both will end up with a degree (being optimistic of course) so why do the poorer students get the grants and no loans even though they'll have a degree just like the people taking loans.

sara_goldrick_rab2 karma

1) The system assumes your parents help you. I know they often don't. I wrote about this in my latest book and in this piece which you might like: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/09/how-financial-aid-betrays-the-modern-family/501818/

2) Contrary to your assumption, almost all people from poorer families ARE taking loans already. It's not that they are getting money you could have had-- it's that the government is systematically failing you TOO.

My book was written to help people understand all of this better, and I hope it helps.

Swerthing2 karma

Shouldn't we just eliminate federal presence in higher education? It has been shown that more aid to students allows colleges to hike tuitions since students will just borrow more to go to college. Its a regressive cycle and frankly the only way out is to get rid of those loans, in my opinion.

sara_goldrick_rab2 karma

As I've explained elsewhere in this AMA, no, that hasn't been proven in general-- only for the private colleges and universities. Yours is a common hypothesis with unintended consequences.

BagofCereal2 karma

Do you believe that just community college should be free, or do you think university should be free as well?

sara_goldrick_rab6 karma

In the end, both. In the short-term, I don't want the latter to get in the way of the former. People working on associate degrees are more at risk of dropping out than those working on bachelor's degrees and they are from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds. I want to start with the first degree- the associate degree-- first.

epicog2 karma

You're saying you want to reform student loans because so many young people can't afford it, nor dedicate their lives to education - instead they are doing things like working full time and school part time.

Why are you also not pushing for people to go into trades and such jobs, so that loans never become an issue? The way I see it, we are one day going to have people with bachelor's degrees serving tables and being trashmen and carpenters (all sincerely great, respectable jobs!) because those are the only jobs that are available. It's funny because that day is already here...

sara_goldrick_rab3 karma

Read my work- I've been focused on community colleges -- which train people for trades-- since my very first book.

I don't seek to reform student loans-- I seek to reform the entire financing system.

postrnut2 karma

Miss your contributions in Madison, but hope you're enjoying Philly. Any thoughts on how conservative policy goals in higher education, such as those outlined for the UW system by WPRI, relate to broader conservative movement goals? Why the attack on public higher ed?

sara_goldrick_rab11 karma

Thank you. The attack on public higher education is part of a broader attack on public goods writ larger, and fundamentally an attack on government. The desire to privatize all social services and return power to "the people" (Read: SOME PEOPLE), is quite clear.

VROF2 karma

In California it seems like our high schools urge kids to take AP classes and the expensive tests when directing them to concurrent enrollment at community college seems like a better option. What can we do to encourage students to start there before taking on debt at expensive private schools?

sara_goldrick_rab10 karma

I agree that this is happening and it's part of a culture that caters to expensive private schools. Fewer and fewer students find that AP classes shorten their time to degree- they may advance to harder courses faster but have to take the same number of credits on site. Dual or concurrent enrollment seems the better option.

RedRunnersly2 karma

How do you like Temple, compared to UW-Madison? It's a lot of first generation students, right? So do you feel like you are really putting your money where your mouth is?

sara_goldrick_rab9 karma

I love Temple. Many more first-generation students, loads more low-income and lower- middle-income students, and a tremendous amount of racial diversity. Sure it comes with somewhat fewer resources for my work, but that's entirely offset by the far richer working environment. I couldn't be happier with my decision.

Fezzix2 karma

Are there any plans in the works to help those already buried in student debt? I graduated in 2003 with over $100k in debt, and have paid down over $100k but still owe about $80k. I feel like I'll never be out of debt and have done my part already to pay it back. Thanks.

sara_goldrick_rab2 karma

Yes there are plans being discussed, for sure. These concerns are why income-based repayment plans were developed, and why loan forgiveness efforts for people with total and permanent disabilities were ramped up. No doubt, more to come.

KSUCat921 karma

Why should we support further Taxes to support this plan when there is a serious shortage of trade workers and an over abundance of college grads with degrees that do little in the real world?

sara_goldrick_rab2 karma

This plan is about increasing the number of people getting certificates and associate degrees which are now required for the vast majority of trade worker jobs, fyi. It's not about bachelor's degrees.

Qwawn720 karma

The cost of tuition has spiraled because the Federal government has subsidized higher education and there has been no reason for institutions not to continue to raise tuition because Federal funds will always be there to support those higher tuition. How can you reverse this?

sara_goldrick_rab-1 karma

I addressed this above.