Magazine article University Business

Commission Report Leaves Higher Ed Questions Unanswered

Magazine article University Business

Commission Report Leaves Higher Ed Questions Unanswered

Article excerpt

THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION'S COMmission on the Future of Higher Education issued the final draft in August of recommendations to improve access and affordability in higher education. Six drafts of the report had been released in preceding weeks, with some versions eliminating or toning down controversial passages. An early proposal for a national standardized exit exam, for example, was ultimately replaced with a recommendation that schools measure student learning on their own.

The commission also recommended increasing the purchasing power of Pell Grants, raising them to cover 70 percent of public college tuition. Whether this proposal would ever be acted on in the current political climate is unclear. The Pell Grant, which in 1986 could be counted on to pay for as much as 98 percent of an average college tuition, now covers less than 25 percent of tuition, and hasn't been increased since 2001.

Although the report's authors argued against price controls, they acknowledged that a Pell increase addresses only part of the problem. The report urges higher ed leaders to find new ways to control costs, saying tuition should grow no faster than median family income: "Even with significant additional federal investment, there is little chance of restoring the Pell's purchasing power if tuition increases absorb most or all of the new money. …

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