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College Affordability

IRHE’s focus on college affordability over the past few years comes at a time when federal and state leaders – and families – have raised concerns about the difficulty families face in paying for postsecondary education. These concerns continue to grow, along with a need for a better understanding of the complex forces at play. In response, IRHE has launched and deepened its work in college affordability.

Major initiatives around college affordability:

  • Working with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) since 2013, IRHE, in collaboration with the Higher Education Policy Institute, has supported the SREB Commission on College Affordability in the South. This task force of state legislators and others from Southern states is working to identify guiding principles for state policy makers regarding college affordability. IRHE also collaborated in developing state reports on college affordability for each Southern state. The next phase of IRHE work with SREB (in 2017) is to provide technical assistance for Southern states interested in assessing current affordability policies, as well as adapting existing policies to address current educational needs.
  • IRHE, along with researchers at the Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and the Higher Education Policy Institute developed state profiles on college affordability from 2008-2013 for all fifty states – for all sectors of higher education. States were ranked from 1-50 on their performance on college affordability. College Affordability Diagnosis provides the most current data to date (in 2016 on college affordability). A deeper dive on college affordability – completed in December 2016 – was an examination of community college affordability across the nation. A Failing Safety Net describes how the higher education sector that once provided the “safety net” for millions of first generation, minority and adult students is now failing as a result of the growing percent of family income required for students to attend.
  • IRHE is collaborating with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to help states diagnose their affordability problems and help state legislators think about their policy options for improving college affordability.
  • IRHE is collaborating with the Campaign for College Opportunity in California to help the state assess many areas of higher education performance. Affordability is one of the major thrusts of this work, which was begun in 2016 and will continue until the next gubernatorial election in 2018.