Relying primarily on the responses of a proportionally weighted sample of undergraduate students attending eighteen major public research universities (N > 300K, responses from > 130K, n > 40K) that are part of the Student Experience in the Research University Consortium, this paper concludes that students from households at all income levels have been impacted by the increasing expense of higher education. The large majority of students from households at all income levels have changed behaviors to make college more affordable. However, the most remarkable result was that dependent students from households with incomes up to $100,000 experienced college much the same. Thus far, it appears that financial aid has been very successful at mitigating the challenges of limited or inadequate household financial resources – generally households with incomes less than $100,000. In contrast, students from wealthier households, that is households with income greater than $200,000, have a more satisfied, more enriching educational experience and worry about financial debt less. As is generally true, it is better to be wealthy. The perception of value for price paid varied by state and was not directly associated with cost to attend or by selectivity, except that the top-rated public universities were considered to be good values regardless of relative cost. And last, there was no clear evidence of middle-class squeeze in the experience of undergraduate students. There were no behaviors or satisfaction ratings with U-shaped relationships where poor and wealthy students had better experiences than students from households in the middle ranges. The relationships were linear or curvilinear with monotonic increases. Note that the lack of middle-class squeeze was based on currently enrolled students’ experiences, not the experiences of their parents, students who did not enroll or enrolled elsewhere, or of recent graduates. One question is whether we will see similar findings over time, and as public universities increase their tuition and financial aid programs.
October 1, 2011
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
WEALTH, COST, AND THE UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT EXPERIENCE AT LARGE PUBLIC RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES by Steve Chatman. CSHE.13.11 (October 2011)