Beyond Tuition

Kevin Carey wonders what's the point in Harvard extending so much tuition assistance to students from low- and middle-income families if they barely admit anyone from such families in the first place? It's a good question. More generally, discussion of college's role in social mobility and how we might broaden access tend to proceed from the badly flawed assumption that the dollar cost is the main barrier. In fact, admissions policies are structured so as to have a large class bias (both in the way merit is defined and in the nature of the departures from a strict merit regime) and then students from economically struggling families often have money-related difficulties staying in school that relate less to inability to pay tuition as such than they do to the opportunity costs of being in school.