How Public Universities Are Failing the Public

The path to success has always been a standard progression: Go to school, get good grades. Go to college, get a good career. Get a good career, help your community.

The linchpin in the progression is the college degree.

Your bachelor’s degree verifies your ability to learn a subject deeply. It provides you with a common foundation steeped in history, philosophy, and psychology. Your degree says you can commit to achieving your goals over a several year period, and that you understand the importance of delaying gratification.

College degrees make it possible for graduates to improve their socio-economic status and take better care of themselves, their families and their communities. And yet, public universities are failing their only customer: the public. How is this possible?

Fail #1: Biased benefits 

Many students can to attend a university only because of financial aid. When wealthy students have access to the same subsidies, grants and other tuition discounts as poorer students, they gain a competitive edge in several ways.

First, they are able to spend someone else’s money rather than their own. More importantly, these students are taking money from students who need the financial aid far worse than they do.

If a lower-income student does not have access to enough financial aid, he or she will not be able to attend college and earn a degree. 

Fail #2: Budget cuts and tuition increases 

Public universities are supposed to be public centers of learning. These institutions are usually far more cost effective and affordable than their private counterparts. In short, a public school can put a college degree well within reach of most Americans.

Over the past several years, however, budget cuts have forced universities to turn  elsewhere for revenue streams. Some of the schools have looked to creative revenue streams, but most have resorted to tuition hikes to stem the budget hemorrhage.

By increasing tuition, public schools are turning their backs on the public who most need a college degree.

Fail #3: Limited awareness

Low-income students tend to avoid ambitious goals when applying to colleges. They under-match their skills and goals, applying at smaller, less well-known colleges. These students simply don’t realize they are capable of getting into more prestigious universities. Better schools are more likely to help larger percentages of their matriculated students graduate.

Universities should target students with awareness campaigns that show how graduating from a four-year institution of higher learning is the key to lifetime success.

If they do anything less, public universities are perpetuating the cycle of failure among the population needing college degrees the most.

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