Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2013—Today, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) President Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., testifies before the Maryland Senate’s Subcommittee on Education, Business, and Administration and the Maryland House of Delegates’ Subcommittee on Education and Economic Development. Dr. Cooper will give a national perspective on college affordability—including innovative practices in other states—and offer policy solutions to address current higher education challenges in Maryland.
Below is an excerpt from Dr. Cooper’s testimony, along with three recommendations:
“The dilemma facing Maryland today is very similar to the challenge facing other states—how to make sure that the state’s educational infrastructure and outcomes reinforce its economic needs. And while most Americans understand this goal and recognize the importance of some postsecondary education in attaining it, they are also perplexed by the cost of college. So what can be done to keep college within reach for today’s students? Well, the answer is complicated, but I will start by offering the following three recommendations that I believe will help keep Maryland’s institutions accessible and affordable:
- State leaders must gain some clarity on what college affordability means within the context of this state. The term affordability is 'unavoidably subjective.' There is also great variation in affordability. For example, what may be affordable to a family living in Takoma Park, Md., may very well be unaffordable to a family living in Prince Frederick, Md. Being clear about the metrics to determine affordability reduces the 'noise' about college costs and allows for more informed decision-making and targeted interventions. One metric of affordability that you may want to consider is: Share of family income required to pay expenses.
- State leaders must ensure that the nation’s longstanding access goal is reinforced alongside the college completion goal. It is appropriate to place our attention on student outcomes, like college completion. Nevertheless, we must recognize that we still have an access problem—too many students are simply not able to get into our institutions. The lack of affordability, not only limits access to college, it also affects the time it takes for students to earn a degree. Given that affordability can impact both college access and college completion, these two goals need to be seen as complementary.
- State leaders must take steps to moderate the cost of college, and restore the purchasing power of need-based grant aid. Given the high levels of unmet need, federal and state need-based grant aid must be increased and must remain targeted primarily on low- and moderate-income students. But to maximize the effectiveness of these grants, there must also be a commitment to lower the price of college, while retaining or enhancing educational quality."
Dr. Cooper’s testimony is being held today at 1 p.m. EST in the Maryland State House, 3 West, Miller Senate. Other speakers scheduled and/or invited to attend include: Dr. Sandy Baum, senior fellow, George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, and senior associate, Institute for Higher Education Policy; Garrett Halbach, policy analyst, Maryland Department of Legislative Services; Tina Bjarekull, president, Maryland Independent College and University Association; Dr. Danette Howard, Maryland secretary of higher education; and Dr. Joseph Urgo, president, St Mary's College of Maryland.
For more information about IHEP, visit the organization’s website at www.ihep.org.