Harvard's Danielle Allen (no relation) has a great WP op-ed today about tuition. At private schools tuition is just the sticker price paid by the students with the wealthiest parents and little athletic ability. Most students get some scholarship funding, which acts as a discount. Those from low-income families pay no tuition. At prestigious private schools, the posted tuition number is actually well below the full cost of schooling; the rest is paid through endowment income, grants, and other sources.
Allen argues that publishing a single tuition number has adverse effects. When private schools increase their tuition, it also increases the demand for public universities, thereby allowing them to charge more tuition as well. But in the publics, financial aid is much more limited and a much higher percentage of students are paying the sticker price.
Instead of publishing a single tuition number, Allen would have universities publish the full cost of education, the range of aid options, and how much aid the average student gets.
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