SUN Editorial: College affordability applies to private schoolsOctober 14, 2009
This editorial was originally published in the Oct. 8 edition of the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun and is reprinted here with permission.
“Country club universities.”
That’s how one Iowa newspaper described the state’s Regent institutions in a piece about how our state performs when it comes to higher education for the most needy.
We don’t go that far with such a moniker, but are disappointed that our state seems to have strayed from the point of taxpayer-supported higher education – education for all. At the same time, we’re thankful that institutions like our own Cornell College have been continuing to meet the needs of all students.
The issue, as reported in a recent edition of the Des Moines Register: Iowa is the fourth worst place in the country when it comes to the number of needy students in state universities. Specifically, the story told of a study based on Iowa’s share of Pell Grant recipients. Federal Pell Grants are for “low-income undergraduate” students to “promote access to post-secondary education.”
Data from the study shows that fewer students are using Pell Grants at state universities, while more and more are using the federal dollars at community and private colleges. Twenty-six percent of Pell Grant recipients in Iowa used the funds at public universities in 2007-08, down from 33 percent 10 years before then. By comparison, Pell Grant recipients using the funds at private colleges has held steady at 29 percent. In other words: Private colleges have consistently educated 29 percent of Iowa’s lower-income students, compared to 26 percent being educated by public universities.
We taxpayers spend oodles on the Regent institutions in Iowa – about $500 million a year. Sure, part of that is a worthwhile investment in research, job creation, economic development, etc. But the heart of the investment is in public education. Each of our students should have a shot at that.
But not as many are getting that shot.
Instead, they’re turning to places that receive little, or no, state funding.
That’s where Cornell enters the picture.
Jonathan Stroud, Cornell’s vice president for enrollment and dean of admission, said the college is “need blind” when it comes to admissions. It’s not focused on families’ abilities to write a check for tuition.
“We have enough faith that we can make it financially feasible for all,” Stroud said.
That’s because of a solid endowment and strong financial support of the college by alumni and friends. The result: Most students pay the same out of pocket as they would at a state school.
“Our student body is as socioeconomically diverse as any public institution,” Stroud said.
We’re grateful for those who donate to Cornell to make sure students have access to a high quality education – including low-income students.
Even though we frown at the numbers – Iowa’s low ranking in our public universities’ service to low-income families – we grin at places like Cornell.
After all, it should be clear that private places like Cornell aren’t “too expensive” or “unaffordable.” We’re not talking about a country club.
For more information, please contact Cornell's Director of Media Relations