Friday, February 01, 2008

Someone Should Tell Graham About This Report

Wherever did the myth that Penn State is becoming a more elite university come from? Hmmm...let me see.
...Penn State approaches the future with a certain degree of uneasiness with respect to its role as one of the nation’s flagship state universities. The University already charges the highest tuition of any public university in the United States. Penn State risks movement toward a more elite student body that can afford the cost of tuition while many low- and middle-income students have come to question whether the University is affordable. Such a shift in student demography would potentially thwart the University’s mission as the principal university for the education of the Commonwealth’s children. Can Penn State endure this evolution? While this committee believes the University can succeed as a business, we are concerned about the potential of sacrificing its Land-Grant educational mission.

The long-term economic slide of the state’s industries has reduced the overall income and tax base for committing state educational funding support for Penn State. As the proportion of family income required to pay the cost of a Penn State education increases, families, especially those with low and moderate incomes, will seek less expensive educational options. The shift in federal funding policy away from adequate grant support toward long-term educational loan programs has caused already financially burdened families from low socioeconomic levels to shy away from encumbering their children with future burdensome loans. Still, for the many students who do take on such a burden, years of repayment of student loans defers or lessens the ability of alumni to contribute much needed support back to their University.

Several questions regarding the overall impact of high priced tuition should be considered. Has Penn State struck the right balance between university academic excellence and the accessibility to this education? Are we losing ground if we cannot fulfill the promise to the People of the Commonwealth’s children? Do we risk the loss of the best and brightest students? The University’s pursuit of alumni support for greater scholarship funding must be the sine qua non to sustain Penn State’s place of eminence among public universities. Access to and affordability of its quality education must be one of our highest priorities.

That is from a University Faculty Senate Report issued in the Fall of 2006. The committee which issued the report hedges its bet and doesn't concluded that Penn State is headed toward becoming a more financially elite institution, rather it concludes that it risks moving in that direction. However, faculty committees are notoriously wishy-washy when it comes to drawing conclusions and,by that standard, the conclusion of this committee is damning. The fact is that this report has a lot of data which suggests that Penn State is headed toward, and may already have arrived at, a more moneyed elite student body. Anyone interested in evidence rather than marketing should go have a look.

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