[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the AACC 21st Century Center.]
The path to affordability looks different from institution to institution. At last fall’s EDUCAUSE annual meeting in Denver, Colo., Betty Young, president of Hocking College in Ohio, spoke on her vision for bringing affordable course materials to students. Passionate about arming her students for their careers but not driving them deeper into debt, Young is launching an all-inclusive pricing model for students at Hocking where full-time students will pay just $300 per semester for all course materials starting fall 2019. I recently sat down with Young to share her insight and best practices with fellow community college leaders.
Shannon Moore-Zuffoletto (SMZ): Higher education has come under criticism on multiple fronts in recent years: on affordability (rising prices/student debt), outcomes (whether students are emerging with the skills that employers want), access (whether elite colleges are enrolling enough low-income students), lack of respect for multiple viewpoints, etc. Which of these, if any, do you consider to be the most legitimate critique, and which one troubles you the most?
Young: We are experiencing a widening gap between affluent and impoverished people, I find that very troubling. The negative impact on society and our respect for multiple viewpoints and civility in our culture grows as the gap between those that believe in their ability to achieve a future of prosperity and those that do not. It continues to be true that earning credentials for the world of work is essential to advance on that pathway to prosperity. Set in this context, affordability and matching students to programs aligned with specific employers are legitimate concerns of the public. Colleges like Hocking College are establishing internships and/or related work programs with employers including the college itself to help students pay for college and to develop their work readiness and specific job skills.
SMZ: In education, we often pit affordability and quality against one another as if they cannot exist together. Is that the case?
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Young: There is some point in which without adequate resources an institution of higher education will lose its ability to meet the needs of students and therefore quality of the programs and services needed for student achievement will diminish. This is not unique to higher education. That said, a less expensive institution does not equate to less quality. There is a role for technology in decreasing costs and improving quality. We must, in higher education, be willing to explore new business models for delivery of quality programming that improves learning and improves affordability and access.