Rising tuition costs slam doors on worthy college aspirants

The Miami Herald

The most recent College Board report on affordability of higher education (Oct. 20 article) states that tuition and fees have risen again at private and public institutions. Though the rate of increase has slowed somewhat, higher education funding is at a crisis point.

When states don't adequately fund colleges and universities, those institutions are forced to raise tuition and fees. The ultimate losers are low-income students who cannot bear the rising debt burden. Their college prospects are further diminished by financial-aid policies that have reduced need-based aid in favor of loans and tax credits, both of which favor wealthier families.

Miami Dade College has strived to maintain one of the lowest tuition and fee schedules in the nation. But like all institutions, we are confronted with exponential cost increases in technology, insurance and utility rates, maintenance costs and, most significantly, a huge increase in enrollment. Seventy-five percent of our students work, and close to 40 percent are employed 35 hours per week or more. Many stop their studies to make ends meet.

Across the nation, more than two million qualified students will be closed out of college for lack of financial resources by 2010. Today, up to 25 percent of low-income students with qualifying grades and entry test scores no longer even apply to college. These are lives compromised and talent wasted. This isn't a Democrat- or Republican-made problem. It is an American challenge that imperils a basic American tradition, and the economic and social effects on communities are enormous. Policymakers at all levels must find the will to address this challenge.

EDUARDO J. PADRON, president, Miami Dade College, Miami



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