The Price of College is too expensive, which means that a lot of kids, especially minorities and kids from low-income families donít continue their education and lose their opportunity at the American Dream. If families had more consumer information that allowed comparison shopping, colleges would need to certify to the public that they offer the best education at the lowest price.
This statement on its face would likely gather support from many sectors of higher education and the American public due to its resemblance to the way goods and services change hands. For many, the statement seems as applicable to higher education as the purchase of a house, an automobile or a grocery cart of food.
The rationale is so tightly engrained in American consumerism and reliance on a market economy, that various components of the statement are typically intertwined into a single concept. As a consequence, discussion of higher education policy in Washington DC, state houses, and college campuses blend disparate concepts into a single argument.
Higher Education generally, and college administrators specifically would be best served by decoupling the various topics in this popular description of higher education. A closer review of the statement indicates at least five imbedded topics that have shaped policy discourse. Those topics are numbered and bolded in a reprint of the statement:
The Price of College is too (1) expensive, which means that a lot of kids, especially minorities and kids from low-income families donít continue their education and lose their (2) opportunity at the ďAmerican Dream.Ē If families had more (3) consumer information that allowed comparison shopping, colleges would need to (4) certify to the public that they offer the (5) best education at the lowest price.
While education was once characterized to its commitment to the ď3 Rís,Ē the Washington agenda on higher education is now characterized by five A-Words:
(1) Affordability refers to the ability
of a family to pay for college. A college is thought to be affordable
if the price that the student pays is a reasonable percentage of the
(2) Access refers to an admission
process that allows fair and reasonable expectations about enrolling in a
college. The term typically connotes the ability of students from
specific social or demographic background to receive an offer of
(3) Accountability refers to the ability
of a college to describe the costs and benefits of enrolling at a
college in a manner that is easily understood by the general public and
therefore a justification for the use of public dollars to fund higher
(4) Accreditation refers to the procedure
used by regional bodies to determine if an institution has met the
requirements to educate its students. Accreditation also connotes the
necessity to evaluate an institution's ability to accomplish its
(5) Assessment refers to a process of determining the efficacy of a curriculum and pedagogy in educating students.