States Stalled on Higher Education Policy

 

More high school students are ready for college when they graduate, but not all of them are enrolling in college and earning degrees, according to a study released Sept. 15.

In addition, most states are doing little to keep college affordable for low-income students as the increasing costs of higher education continue to outpace inflation, said the report from the National Center on Public Policy and Higher Education. The center recieves some of its funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which also supports Stateline.org.

While several governors and President George W. Bush (R) are turning their attention to high schools, after years in which education reforms were aimed primarily at elementary schools, state policies have neglected ways to improve higher education, the study concludes.

"We can no longer attribute all of our college access and quality problems to the failure of public schools," Patrick M. Callan, president of the national center, said in a written statement. "The fact is, high schools have improved over these last 10 years, and we haven't seen commensurate higher education gains."

Margaret A. Miller, a professor in the Department of Leadership, Foundations and Policy at the University of Virginia, said that state budget cuts to higher education, rising enrollments and less needs-based scholarship aid have combined to drive up the cost of college. Those cost increases hurt mostly minorities and low-income students, who are more likely to drop out of school but need a college degree to raise their earning potential in the job market, she said.

The report is the third biennial study of state policies on higher education and the first to look at decade-long trends in college access and affordability as well as the percentage of students who complete degrees and the civic and economic benefits of higher education. The report outlines nationwide trends and also provides report cards for each of the 50 states.

 
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