The problem of paying for college is causing thousands of young adults to drop out before earning a degree, a disheartening truth that must change if the nation is to have the educated workforce it needs, argues sociologist Sara Goldrick-Rab. She comes to Sacramento State Jan. 27 to share solutions to the problem of college affordability and financial aid access. She speaks at 4 p.m. in Hinde Auditorium in the University Union. The event, sponsored by the Doctorate in Educational Leadership, is free and open to the public.
For nearly a decade, Goldrick-Rab tracked 3,000 young adults who entered public colleges and universities in Wisconsin, with the goal of understanding college affordability and its impact on graduation rates. The results of her study are revealed in her book, “Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream,” which demonstrates that college students drop out overwhelmingly because they cannot afford the price. Dr. Goldrick-Rab will sign copies of her book before the event at 3:30 pm.
Of the students Goldrick-Rab and her team followed, half dropped out of school, and less than twenty percent finished a bachelor’s degree in five years. Additional grant money helped alleviate some of the cost, but was rarely enough. The study revealed that students rarely finish college when their costs are not fully covered; and if they do, it takes them longer than it should, and they graduate with a substantial amount of debt.
“In the past, students and families who worked hard stood a real chance of attaining a college degree, a ticket to the good life. Today, the promise of a college degree no longer holds true,” Goldrick-Rab says. “Millions enroll in higher education with plans to work, borrow, and save, only to find that their funds still fall short. Even living on ramen, doubling up with roommates, and working a part-time job isn’t enough to make ends meet.”
Goldrick-Rab offers a number of possible solutions, from changing the content and timing of FAFSA forms, to allowing more flexibility in how students can use their awarded aid money, to funding a public sector-focused “first degree first” program. She also addresses how housing and food insecurity adds to the problem of college affordability.
Goldrick-Rab is the founding director of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s first laboratory aimed at improving equitable outcomes in postsecondary education, and is Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia. She coauthored “Reinventing Financial Aid: Charting a New Course to College Affordability,” and has written on education issues for the New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @saragoldrickrab.
See her recent appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, during which she discusses her study of 10 community colleges nationwide, which found that 13 percent of those community college students were homeless.
(The California Faculty Association recently issued a similar report on disinvestment and its impact on students in ‘The People’s University’, “Equity Interrupted:How California Is Cheating Its Future.”)