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College Affordability: It's About More Than Tuition Prices

GW Research Professor Sandy Baum Co-Authors Paper, 'College Affordability: What Is It and How Can We Measure It?'

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Debates surrounding college affordability must not focus solely on sticker prices but consider how much students—with help from their parents—can reasonably pay for their postsecondary education after considering several factors, such as return on their investment over time, writes Sandy Baum, research professor of education policy at the George Washington University, in a paper released today.

"Instead of just looking at the price of college and other expenses relative to family incomes, as we so often see in policy debates, the more important question for determining whether college is affordable is, 'Can students expect to improve their long-term standards of living, even after paying for college?' " said Dr. Baum, of GW's Graduate School of Education and Human Development. She and Jennifer Ma, policy research scientist at the College Board, authored the paper, "College Affordability: What Is It and How Can We Measure It?"

There is no one indicator that can show whether college is affordable, Dr. Baum said. Instead, she and Dr. Ma propose compiling several metrics that, tracked over time, can provide a data-driven picture of whether college is affordable, as well as trends in affordability. The metrics include:

  • Sticker prices and net prices: average tuition and fees by sector and by state, average room and board, housing and food prices by geographical areas, textbook prices, changes in college prices relative to prices of other goods and services—and all of these prices after taking grant aid into consideration
  • Earnings: earnings by educational attainment for full-time workers, all workers and members of the labor force; earnings by educational attainment by geographical area and by age; average earnings for different levels of educational attainment and the variation in those earnings
  • Other resources: discretionary income; net worth by age, income and other characteristics; saving rates; inequality of income and net worth
  • Student debt: percentage of students with education debt and distribution of debt levels for students with different characteristics at different types of institutions, loan payments relative to earnings premiums

This paper was funded by a grant from the Lumina Foundation and released today at the "Lumina Ideas Summit" in D.C.

For more information: https://mediarelations.gwu.edu/college-affordability-it%E2%80%99s-about-more-tuition-prices

SOURCE George Washington University

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