California Must Rethink Cal Grant Requirements

     

    Ashford/Bridgepoint has reapplied for WASC accreditation. Perhaps the non-public $9,223 Cal Grants should go to the very best national universities and perhaps also (only?) to only the very best liberal arts colleges. Perhaps even if it does receive accredited status, Ashford/Bridgepoint students should be denied Cal Grants.

    Currently, the state provides a maximum Cal Grant of $9,708 per year for 26,000 California students to attend expensive religious institutions such as Loyola Marymount University, University of San Diego and University of San Francisco (all listed as charging over $50,000 tuition). Biola University (which grew 47 percent in the last decade thanks in part to generous Cal Grants) even joined a lawsuit to challenge the Obama administration’s abandoned mandate that employers should provide insurance coverage for abortion drugs at no cost to employees. Re-adoption of Gov. Jerry Brown’s abandoned proposal to slash Cal Grants that support all or even some non-public institutions was the true path, in my opinion.

    Tuition discounting reached a record high in 2011–2012 at private nonprofit colleges, but that common technique for attracting students often failed to have the desired effect, especially at small, less-selective institutions. Colleges use tuition discounting to entice students who might otherwise be unable or unwilling to pay full tuition. But that strategy may be reaching its limits, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, as students and their families become more frugal about college costs in the wake of the recession and the sluggish economic recovery. Based upon a fall 2012 survey of 383 private colleges, the discount rate reached an average of 45 percent for first-time, full-time freshmen in 2011–2012, up from 44 percent in 2010–2011.

    The average grant to each freshman covered 53 percent of tuition and fees at these private nonprofit colleges in 2011–2012, up from about 52 percent the year before. Even with increased aid, more than half of the colleges surveyed said that their freshman enrollment was declining, especially at baccalaureate institutions with enrollments of less than 4,000. Over 83 percent of those colleges saw a decline in enrollment, according to the survey. But such declines affected less than 12 percent of postgraduate institutions with more than 4,000 students and less than 5 percent of research universities. However, based on the Ashford/Bridgepoint model, a lot more radio and some non-primetime television advertisements for local, non-elite small colleges might reverse years of enrollment declines. 

    — Richard Thompson
    Alumnus ’83

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