Message from the president
Rethinking how we pay for college
There are two unassailable truths about postsecondary education today. First, in this demanding global economy, having a postsecondary credential is increasingly important. In fact, it’s a must for anyone who hopes to maintain a middle-class lifestyle. Second: The cost of obtaining such a credential is increasingly high—so high, in fact, that far too many Americans are denied the opportunity to realize their college dreams.
This situation is potentially disastrous, not merely for tens of thousands of individual students, but for all of us as Americans. This nation faces an urgent and growing need for talent. We simply can’t afford to waste the potential inherent in our citizens ― including the growing numbers of individuals from traditionally underserved groups: low-income students, first-generation students, students of color and adult learners.
Clearly, increasing the level of college-level learning is the best way to meet the nation’s need for talent. That’s why Lumina Foundation is committed to the effort to reach Goal 2025: By the year 2025, we want 60 percent of Americans to hold a high-quality degree, certificate or other postsecondary credential. We know, however, that this goal can’t be reached unless and until the nation tackles the problem of college affordability. In fact, we are convinced the time has come to fundamentally rethink our national approach to student financial aid.
That, in brief, was the impetus for this series of papers. Last spring, Lumina sent out a request for comprehensive policy papers that address the areas of college affordability, loan repayment and federal-state-institutional partnership for student financial aid. The response to that request was robust and gratifying, and we chose to fund the publication of 15 such papers, all of them available here.
Our goal in this series is not to prescribe a particular solution or choose one course of action. Rather, we seek to generate innovative ideas for improving the ways in which postsecondary education is paid for in this country—and to stimulate further discussion on that vital topic. It’s important to note, then, that each paper reflects the views and recommendations of its authors, not those of Lumina Foundation.
Still, we are struck—and quite encouraged ― by some of the common messages across these papers. For example:
That college affordability is about more than tuition and fees—that it must also incorporate real-world cost-of-living factors such as transportation, child care, food and rent. While we’ve known this fact for a long time, it’s striking to consider given the nature of the students served by postsecondary institutions today.
That students need unbiased, timely, credible information about the cost and long-term value of college ― but that simply having such information is not sufficient to make college possible for all who need and want it. We also need to move students to act on that information.
That we must adopt a sense of shared responsibility for making college affordable. This means building a system in which all entities involved ― federal and state governments, institutions, and students and their families—do their part.
We’re grateful to the authors for wrestling with these issues and delivering these messages so thoughtfully, and we at Lumina are proud to provide this platform for their work.
Again, it is our hope that these papers stimulate constructive dialogue and action that can make higher education more affordable and more equitable. To that important end, I commend these papers to you, and I urge you to join the discussion.