I’m a leading higher education expert -- Obama’s proposal to provide two years of free community college tuition was also part of a plan laid out in a paper I wrote in 2014. I’m dedicated to reforming financial aid and lowering the price of colleg...
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!