2021 & Beyond: How Congress and the Biden Administration Can Ensure Higher Education Emerges from the COVID Crisis Stronger than Ever

American colleges and universities play an essential role in building a more prosperous, equitable country. President-Elect Joseph Biden and his administration will begin their work at a perilous time, as students are buffeted by a pandemic, deep recession, state budget crisis, and a potential rise of for-profit colleges.

An ambitious federal effort is needed to cushion the effects of the pandemic and recession and address longstanding challenges in affordability and equity.

In a memo to President-Elect Biden, we outline five critical federal pillars that would help students and colleges weather the twin crises of pandemic and recession, close racial and economic gaps in college attainment, restore the promise of public higher education, and reduce the burden of student debt.

Read the memo

REPORT: Class of 2019 Four-Year Graduates’ Average Student Debt Is $28,950

Our 15th annual report on student debt at graduation found more than six in ten (62%) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2019 had student loan debt, and they owed an average of $28,950. This is a lower share of students than the Class of 2018 (65%) and a very slight decline (less than 1%) in total debt from the 2018 average of $29,200. However, over the last 15 years, average debt for college graduates outpaced inflation, and it grew at more than double the rate of inflation in 18 states.

The slowing and recent pause in student debt growth for college graduates is encouraging news. Increases in state spending and grant aid are both likely contributing factors, as well as broader economic improvements in the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the public health crisis has already reshaped the higher education landscape in important ways and placed profound financial pressures on states, colleges, and students that could already be making college less affordable and increase reliance on student debt.

Read the report

Read more in The New York Times and Inside Higher Ed

Net Price Calculators in Michigan Key to College Decisions in a Crisis

A decade ago, the federal government attempted to address confusion around sticker and net price by requiring all colleges to maintain on their websites a net price calculator (NPC) that displays a personalized estimate of total costs after scholarships based on the family resources input by a prospective student. While a critical resource, our research has shown that NPCs can be hard to find, hard to use, and hard to compare across colleges. In Michigan, our analysis of NPCs at colleges across the state found that trends mirror the national story: these tools are not consistently easy to find, use, or compare. A new report  explores accessibility and details findings, including that one in eight NPCs in Michigan are hard to find on institutions’ websites, one-fifth require overly detailed family financial information to complete, and some schools use data that is as much as a decade old to compute the results.

Read the report

What Works – Brief Highlights Community College Strategies for Improving CDRs to Protect Students

In a joint release, TICAS and the Association of Community College Trustees released What Works: College Strategies for Reducing Student Loan Default, a brief highlighting approaches to default prevention that community colleges use to support students and improve their cohort default rates (CDRs).

The new brief revisits some of the colleges profiled in a 2014 report ACCT and TICAS published to learn what practices they have adopted and refined over time to improve student outcomes and lower their CDRs. The default prevention strategies used by the colleges highlighted in What Works offer valuable lessons for other colleges committed to continuously improving their CDRs.

Read the report and read more in Inside Higher Ed

TICAS in the News

  • Racial Equity in Funding for Higher Ed | Kery Murakami, Inside Higher Ed
    “According to a study last year by the Institute for College Access and Success, 54 percent of Black, Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Islander students who attended public colleges in 2016-17 were enrolled at two-year institutions. In comparison, 23 percent of those attending institutions that offer master’s degrees that year were people of color. But funding for two-year colleges, such as the College of Southern Maryland, has lagged behind. In 2006-07, community colleges had only 59 cents for every dollar institutions offering master’s degrees could spend, according to the TICAS study. By the 2016-17 academic year, the gap had narrowed — slightly. Community colleges could now spend 61 cents for every dollar institutions offering master’s degrees could spend — two pennies more than a decade earlier, the TICAS study found.”
  • Election 2020 ‘has enormous implications for student loan debt’ | Aarthi Swaminathan, Yahoo Finance
    “‘This election has enormous implications for student loan debt,’ Debbie Cochrane, executive vice president at the The Institute of College Access and Success, told Yahoo Finance Live. ‘The two candidates that are on the ballot… have very different versions of college costs, college affordability, and student loan debt.’”
  • Pandemic Increases Importance of Filing Early for Financial Aid | Ann Carrns, The New York Times
    “This year, most help is happening virtually, and high school counselors may be stretched, said Michele Streeter, senior policy analyst with the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success. ‘The resources available are diminished,’ she said, so students may have to take more initiative to find help. They should start by contacting their high school’s counseling office, Ms. Streeter said.”
  • Default Rates Decline Slightly | Kery Murakami, Inside Higher Ed
    Debbie Cochrane, executive vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success, said the decline could be a sign of steps institutions, including community colleges, are taking to help students do better in school and not default on their loans. But she and Michael Itzkowitz, senior fellow at the centrist think tank Third Way, also said the decline could be a sign of colleges avoiding having their default rates drop by pushing borrowers to enter forbearance, which increases their costs in the long term.”

ICYMI: Celebrating 15 Years of Fighting for Affordability, Accountability, and Equity in Higher Education

For 15 years, The Institute for College Access & Success has worked to close economic and racial gaps in college opportunity. Our research and advocacy have contributed to more affordable student loan repayment plans, larger Pell Grants and Cal Grants, a simpler financial aid application process, and other policies that make college more affordable, accountable, and equitable for students. We take pride in what we have done. But, ultimately, our success is measured by the impact our work has on students’ lives, and we know there is so much more left to do. We’re celebrating our accomplishments, but more importantly, taking time to reflect on the past, learn in the moment, and plan for what comes next.

Join us as we commemorate this moment in time.  Please consider a tax-deductible contribution and help us make a difference for students and borrowers in the next 15 years and beyond.