University Business September 2017 - 12

OnTopic

Q&A with Sara Goldrick-Rab

right, and I'm also talking with faithbased organizations. The National
School Lunch Program exists for children, not entirely because it's good for
kids to eat, but it's also there because
it's a moral thing to do.
People have a hard time envisioning
kids going hungry while they're trying
to learn, and I think that it won't be
too long before they also have a hard
time with people sitting in college
classrooms without enough to eat.

Hope is a strategy. If you don't
even have hope that you can fix this,
you're not going to do anything.

That's right. Making the FAFSA application simpler doesn't change the
You wrote, "The problems facing
resources you get once you've done it,
public higher education are not a
and those resources are pathetic. Those
function of too few resources, but
resources are too thin. Basically, right
rather the fault of those who are usnow the FAFSA is an invitation to debt.
ing the resources."
I get it-we want them to fill it out.
Many people think we just need to put
We want them to get every dollar that's
more money into higher ed. And, sure,
on the table. But to distribute a $2,000
it'd be nice. Raise taxes and put more
Pell Grant-when the cost of college
money in higher ed. Great. I can't object is $20,000-is to say to the student,
to that. But we already have a lot of
"Here you go. Here's your $2,000, now
money in higher ed. We're just not alloyou come up with the other $18,000."
cating it well. I believe we've been fundIf we could expand the Pell Grant
ing choice in higher ed over affordabilto make it actually do what it was
ity. It's not that dissimilar to the K12
intended to do-to cover the cost of
situation. We're funding school choice
attending a public two- or four-year
before we've actually funded our public
college-I'd be all for it. The problem
schools adequately. And we're spending
is that's not going to happen. I'm an
$40 billion per year on for-profit coloptimistic person, but I am also an
leges and universities in this country. It's observer of program dynamics and
pretty clear to me that the community
funding for poor people's programs. So,
colleges are underfunded.
double the Pell, triple the Pell, that's
All we need to do-not to sound
good. But I'd put the chance of that
too simplistic-is take that money and
happening at less than 2 percent.
put it in the community college sector.
The reason that's so hard is that virtuYou said you're an optimistic person,
ally every congressperson in the House
and your book was written before
and Senate is taking money right now
the election. Has that optimism
from the for-profit colleges to not do
changed since?
that. I think it's important that we
That's a really good question. It was
explain that, rather than suggest there
not an outcome I expected, and it absojust isn't enough money.
lutely does make the road to the things
I describe so much harder. We're movSome people say simplifying the
ing in the opposite direction with reFAFSA and expanding the Pell
gard to the for-profits, for example. I'd
Grant would increase access, but
want to curtail spending on them, but I
you say that won't solve the underlybelieve it's going to go up now.
ing problems.
But the idea that we therefore don't
12 | September 2017

take steps-that's not ground that I'm
willing to cede. What it has meant for
my work is that part of my job now is
just to keep people's hopes up in an optimistic way. Hope is a strategy. If you
don't even have hope that you can fix
this, you're not going to do anything.
You've advocated for hitting the reset
button and starting over.
We have a system that wasn't built for
our current situation. I think there's
just a point at which you've got to say
this status quo can not and will not
ever work for who we're educating today and what our goals are. Our goals
in the past were to make college available to those who really wanted it, who
basically had some kind of privilege,
whether it was financial or academic,
to make it possible. Our goals today
are not that. This country needs a
workforce with at least some part of
post-secondary education. If that's the
new reality, then we need a totally different financing system.
Our goal is to slowly inch toward
a system in which we provide a highquality, affordable-by which I mean
free-public option. I'm not saying
Harvard becomes free. I'm not saying private colleges disappear. I'm not
saying we pay everybody's living costs.
I'm saying we do like we do with high
schools. We don't charge tuition and
we provide targeted programs for people who need help with living costs.
Tim Goral is senior editor of UB.
www.universitybusiness.com


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business September 2017

University Business September 2017 - Intro LOC
University Business September 2017 - Cover1
University Business September 2017 - Cover2
University Business September 2017 - 1
University Business September 2017 - 2
University Business September 2017 - 3
University Business September 2017 - 4
University Business September 2017 - 5
University Business September 2017 - 6
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University Business September 2017 - Cover3
University Business September 2017 - Cover4
University Business September 2017 - 58
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