An analysis of the news, both print and broadcast, would likely reveal that the number one topic from PK-16 is sports. While some researchers and administrators are questioning the potential of the tail, athletics, wagging the dog, academics, the likelihood of changing the relationship between education and Friday night lights or Saturday afternoon tailgating is slim to none.
The institutions and their decisions are driven by the demands of parents, students, and alumni. The goal is to find balance. The stress on higher education funding sources is at an all-time high and forms a perfect storm. Student debt is out of control and the Feds are looking at increased interest rates. To compound the issue, the Fed has also changed the criteria for eligibility to receive subsidized loans. Students rarely understand that even bankruptcy cannot free them of this obligation.
While the University of Richmond is increasing the threshold that will qualify eligible students for a tuition free education, many institutions are pricing students out of the market with more debt and leaving many without degrees. Two years of community college and then a BA can save at least 25 percent.
Compounding the impact on students are fees. Having been on bank boards, I have come to realize that decreased interest rates bring more fees. Try to control tuition rates and creative fees abound. If higher education continues to shift the pressure on revenue sources to tuition and fees, they might likely feel the impact of another market variable… demand. Students who face poor job opportunities may conclude that going to college does not make economic sense.