Monday, November 5, 2012

Liberalism on the Cheap: Using One Student's Tuition Money to Give Financial Aid to Another Student

According to Inside Higher Education, the Iowa Board of Regents recently eliminated a policy whereby Iowa public universities earmarked 20 percent of student tuition money for use as financial aid. The Iowa Board of Regents did the right thing. The common but little-publicized practice of earmarking tuition money for student aid is nothing more than a policy of forcing disfavored students to donate part of their tuition money to their university so that the university can give financial aid to students that it favors--often minority students.

The practice of using part of student A's tuition money to give reduced tuition to Student B is particularly pernicious when Student A is  borrowing money to attend college. After graduating from Harvard Graduate School of Education, I recall learning that about one-third of my tuition money was used by Harvard to give financial aid to other students. I realized that one-third of every monthly check I wrote to pay back my student loan was a payment on some other student's tuition, not my own.

Of course it is laudable for universities to award financial aid to students who are economically disadvantaged or minority students that universities particularly want to attract in order to promote diversity. But this seemingly benign policy of making some students pay for other students' financial aid is nothing more than liberalism on the cheap. If Harvard or some other elite university believes it is beneficial to use financial aid to attract minority students, it should use its own resources to pursue that goal, and not force disfavored students to pay for Harvard's liberalism by increasing the size of their student loans.

In my view, the practice of using disfavored students' tuition money to fund financial aid for other students is part of a larger rottenness of moral purpose at our universities. Most university leaders are  liberals who espouse the political and social views of the New York Times and other liberal beacons of social values.  But few are willing to take any personal risk in order to trumpet those views. Thus we see law school deans harassing the Christian Legal Society chapters on their campuses because the CLS upholds traditional Christian views about marriage.  Politically, hectoring CLS is a completely safe thing to do, because CLS has very few friends in the academic world.

But how many law school deans have made a personal sacrifice to stop the upward creep of law-school tuition? How many university presidents have taken even one politically controversial stand that might damage their careers?  For example, how many have opposed the war in Afghanistan, come out in favor of reforming our immigration laws, or supported legislation to relieve the suffering of overburdened student-loan debtors?  Very, very few--if any.

No, it is much safer for college administrators to use their students' tuition money to advance their personal social agendas and to  harass Christian student groups as a way of publicizing their broadmindedness.  No wonder our universities have descended into a moral morass.  University leaders are thinking too much about their own careers and not enough about the welfare of their students--all their students.


Kevin Kiley. Use of public tuition for financial aid is likely to become a political issue in many states. Inside Higher Education. November 5, 2012.

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