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PAYING THE PRICE: Portland Community College

Book talk

Minh Mai

on 10 November 2016

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Transcript of PAYING THE PRICE: Portland Community College

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology
Temple University

Prezi by:

Paying the Price:
College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream

We met Chloe and Nima in 2008. We also met 2,998 other students like them across Wisconsin. Like Chloe and Nima, half of them attended community college.
“I just knew that you get out of high school and you go to college. That’s what you do, and that’s what I did….It just feels like you can’t get a decent job…I knew I had to get an education.”


74% of 9th graders from low-income families expect to attend college.
Today’s financial aid system focuses on students like Chloe and Nima.
Purchasing Power of the Pell Grant at Public Institutions, by Type: 1974-2013
Total Pell Expenditures, Maximum and Average Pell Grant, and Number of Recipients: 1994-1995 – 2013-2014
Chloe is not alone. Her price is similar to the national average. Community college is not already "free."

% of students with loans

% of students with work-study

% of students working

Two-thirds of students not currently working are nonetheless seeking work
It’s hard to find help.
Over 6 years we tracked those 3,000 students.

50% of them completed degrees, including 42% who started at community colleges.

The new economics of college are doing harm.

We can do better.


The FAST FUND—created to help students immediately, by identifying and supporting them with faculty in their local schools

Go to http://saragoldrickrab.com for more info.

Stay in touch
24% of students were food-insecure

16% had trouble paying rent on time

33% said that they felt obligated to support their family financially

When these students were born, there was a safety net.
Today it’s nearly nonexistent.
“I want to have a good job and enough money to support my family. To have everything paid, all of their bills, and help my parents and my family in Nepal.”

Chloe's mom made $25,380 per year.
Her “expected family contribution” was $2,520. But her mom couldn't pay it.
Her community college charged $15,512 per year.
(including $3,196 in tuition).
Grants helped—to the tune of $2,958.
She still needed to come up with the other $12,554.
and the federal loan limit was $5,500.
But just 51% of those who graduate from high school will ever make it to college.
Only 2 in 5 will get a degree of any kind within 6 years.

Talent development requires education—and today education is too risky.

Improving academic preparation will only do so much. College readiness must be matched with reasonable college prices.


1. For simple, clear, trustworthy policies that support students
2. For money that reaches them when they need it
3. For a sustainable financing system that recognizes we can’t afford to push students out of college

More than 2 in 5 ended up with no degree—but they had debt.

66% borrowed for their first year of college, but never got a credential.

Would more grant aid have helped?

We conducted a randomized experiment that suggests, ‘yes’—but only partially.

The way the financial aid system works simply makes it too hard.

Too many rules … too much paperwork… and too many broken promises.

We got to know them over the next 6 years—their classes, their grades, their financial aid, their jobs, their lives.
Every last one got a federal Pell Grant, which is supposed to make college affordable.
One problem? The coupons that aid provides no longer cover the cost of college.
If Chloe attended college the year she was born, her net price would have been close to $0.
Full transcript