Fee generosity?

In the context of reports about bursary support in English universities it is instructive to consider some recent developments from the Ivy League:

First, from the Chronicle:

Yale University said on Monday that it would reduce the average cost of studying in New Haven, Conn., by at least half for families with annual incomes below $120,000. The announcement came just a month after Harvard University announced a similar plan to reduce debt among students from middle- and upper-middle-income families. Under Yale’s plan, most families who earn $60,000 to $120,000 will contribute 1 to 10 percent of their income per year. Families with earnings of $120,000 to $200,000 will pay an average of 10 percent of their income per year, seeing a reduction of about 33 percent. Parents earning less than $60,000 will not have to contribute to their child’s education.

In an interview, Richard C. Levin, Yale’s president, said that the university’s leaders had been considering the move for a couple of years but that two factors had influenced the timing of the announcement. One was that federal lawmakers have recently urged colleges to spend a larger percentage of their endowments on student aid. The other was the growth of Yale’s wealth: The university had a 28-percent return on its $22.5-billion endowment in the last fiscal year.

Interesting that, whilst there is no OFFA equivalent, nevertheless there is a perceived pressure to improve student aid provision. And the scale of the endowment remains breathtaking.

And from the Economist, a report that Yale is simply following Harvard:

yale logo

Yale, Harvard’s bitterest rival, revealed its plans on January 14th. Students whose families make less than $60,000 a year will pay nothing at all. Families earning up to $200,000 a year will have to pay an average of 10% of their incomes. The university will expand its financial-assistance budget by 43%, to over $80m. Harvard will have a similar arrangement for families making up to $180,000. That makes the price of going to Harvard or Yale comparable to attending a state-run university for middle- and upper-income students. The universities will also not require any student to take out loans to pay for their tuition, a policy introduced by Princeton in 2001 and by the University of Pennsylvania just after Harvard’s announcement. No applicant who gains admission, officials say, should feel pressured to go elsewhere because he or she can’t afford the fees.

Which is good news for those who get in and pretty easy to do for Yale and Harvard given their endowments but it is no doubt the subject of much grumbling from other, less wealthy, institutions (and Princeton, where they did this seven years ago).

(with thanks to Caryl T for the spot)

Fees: “Almost impossible to understand”

According to a piece in the Guardian.

Some students have been put off applying because the funding system is now among the most complex in the world, says the report by the consultancy London Economics, commissioned by Million+, a group representing former polytechnic universities previously known as the Coalition of Modern Universities. “The combination of differential fees, fee loans, maintenance loans, fee grants, maintenance grants, bursaries and the education maintenance allowance make the entire package almost impossible to understand,” it says.


Even if it is accepted that the system is complicated, it clearly cannot be so incredibly difficult otherwise no-one would actually be entering HE. And part of the deal over fees remains that institutions have a mission to explain. Universities have to tell applicants about the costs but also about the bursaries and grants available to them.

Numbers entering HE continue to rise so clearly some are understanding what is going on. As for the impact on widening participation, it is not clear that students from non-traditional or lower family income backgrounds are being deterred. Moreover, the argument has been that it is fear of debt (misplaced) rather than complexity which is acting as a deterrent. Can it be both?

And anyway, shouldn’t the brightest graduates of tomorrow have the core numeracy skills required to understand a system of fees, grants, loans and bursaries?

The report itself is available here and it is clearly a little more measured than the press release which prompted this story, highlighting the need for whole system review rather than piecemeal change but also the complications caused by the differences across countries within the UK.

(And as for the entertaining rebranding of CMU as Million+, see the Mortarboard for details.)