Policymakers consider failed “High-Tuition/High-Aid” model for Washington colleges

In the face of impending budget cuts to higher education, Washington policymakers are considering adopting a “high-tuition/high-aid” model that significantly increases tuition, partly offset with more financial aid.

The assumption of this approach is that students who can afford it pay more; those students who cannot, benefit from larger financial aid packages. But the experience of universities that have adopted this model shows that high-tuition/high-aid preserves neither access nor quality.

Examination of results from four Research Tier 1 universities – like the University of Washington – that switched to the high tuition-high aid model finds:

  • Enrollment of low-income and under-represented minority students declines due in part to “sticker shock.”
  • Enrollment of high-performing students declines due to greater competition with private colleges.
  • Educational quality decreases as schools shift funds in the struggle to maintain access.
  • Financial aid packages emphasize loans that contribute to high levels of student debt.

Washington needs new sources of revenue to support investments in early learning, K-12 and higher education. Doing so will promote technological innovation, increase our business competitiveness, and support a higher quality of life for all.

More in our latest policy brief: A Failing Grade: “High-Tuition/High-Aid”.

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