SPRIGGS: March Madness

William Spriggs, Special to The Informer | 3/31/2014, 11:11 a.m.
Everyone is crying in their beer because the discussion about college athletes forming unions has focused on athletes being paid. ...
William Spriggs

Yet, the Education Department is pursuing a scorecard slanted to be a model for universities with huge endowments and already high tuition like MIT. That model doles out discounts to some students who need help paying tuition and saddles many with debts. The model does not scale up to handle large numbers of slots for students who qualify for Pell grants-which max out at $5,645 a year. Among top schools, Harvard and MIT look good for having 20 percent of their students eligible for Pell Grants. At Tuskegee, 64 percent of students get Pell Grants, as it is high for most HBCUs. But without the $32 billion in endowment of Harvard or the $11 billion endowment of MIT, and without being able to charge tuition rates of around $43,000 like Harvard and MIT, it is a huge challenge to provide assistance to such a large number of students without the means to pay; and leads to rising debt for others.

The other solution is for America to commit to dramatically increase investment in our colleges-publicly endow them-to make access to college an American right-not leave access to the vagaries of past inequalities and the elites who aren't measuring up in delivering access or diversity on the necessary scale.

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