Ask any economist and they’ll tell you a college education is one of the best investments someone can make. Indeed, most have heard the stat that over an entire working career, a bachelor’s degree holder will earn roughly $1 million more than a high school graduate.

That statistic, of course, hinges on whether that person actually graduates college.

If you look at the data, a surprising percentage of bachelor’s-seeking students have no degree and are not enrolled six years after they first begin their higher ed journey.

On its own, that’s bad: But the problem is compounded by the fact…


Too many students drop out of college every year. Disturbingly, many do so after assuming the burden of student loan debt. In fact, nearly 40 percent of student loan borrowers have debt but no degree, based on data from the U.S. Department of Education.

There is no metric or standard for what constitutes an acceptable number of people who have debt without a degree, yet two out of every five borrowers certainly feels like it’s on the high side.

And here’s why it matters: With no degree to boost earnings, the time it would take to pay off tens of…


The unprecedented political push to potentially forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in federal student loans is inching towards reality, and probably the only thing keeping it at bay right now is the economic pushback that so much taxpayer money wouldn’t be coming back, even though many of those borrowers would still be able to successfully make their payments without it.

The unspoken assumption behind forgiveness is that it will happen in a single, lump-sum transaction, which raises questions in its own right. Will the one-time tax consequences for struggling families be large enough to require a loan in itself…


One of the more popular ideas in education policy in recent years has been a gentle nudge, rather than a direct push, for behavioral changes that promote better outcomes. In the case of college, efforts have focused largely on testing whether something as simple as small financial aid nudges can improve an array of education outcomes.

As ideas go, nudging ranks high in theory but (like many great ideas) low on demonstrated success. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, another large-scale study — some 800,000 students — found that nudging people with text messages to complete the government’s Free Application…


American higher education is ramping up again for another semester though you’d hardly know it. For the overwhelming majority of students, “going back to school” has been no more exhausting than moving a laptop from the living room to the dining room.

One might think students and their families would welcome the room and board financial relief. Tuition and fees aren’t cheap, but living costs — everything from meal plans to residence halls or off-campus apartments — are the real budget busters. …


It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has many American families struggling financially right now, from making mortgage or rent payments to covering car payments and credit cards. But this time we can’t blame student loans; in March, Congress moved quickly to freeze payments.

Most agree it was the right move at the right time. But it can’t last forever; there’s a $1.3-trillion portfolio that must be repaid. …


Part three in a 3-part series originally presented as a report written for the Manhattan Institute

This is the third and final part in a series of ideas proposed in a report that I wrote for the Manhattan Institute last year around how small shifts in the way cost and pricing data gets conveyed to students and families can produce better enrollment and completion outcomes. (You can find Part 1 and Part 2 here)

In this piece, I propose that we can help students and families make better decisions around college affordability by taking current data around debt and earnings and just repackage it in ways that are more understandable given how they think about paying…


Part two in a 3-part series originally presented as a report written for the Manhattan Institute

One of the biggest hurdles to completing a college degree in America today is simply figuring out how to pay for it. Last year I wrote a report for the Manhattan Institute around how small shifts alone in the way cost and pricing data gets conveyed to students and families can produce better enrollment and completion outcomes. I’m revisiting these ideas now, updating them, and posting them one at a time here on Medium.

Two weeks ago, I published the first piece on why students would benefit from institutions charging a one-time, all-in upfront fee for a degree, rather than…


Part one in a 3-part series originally presented as a report written for the Manhattan Institute

One of the biggest hurdles to completing a college degree in America today is simply figuring out how to pay for it. Unlike other major investments people make in things like homes or cars — where you start by figuring out what you can afford and then back into what you eventually buy — getting a college degree means starting with a dream, getting in the door and really only then worrying about, or working through, how to pay for it.

This seemingly backwards approach creates what feels like a never-ending list of headaches for students and families that crop…


Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/16572095095

The political and economic worlds are still reeling from last week’s election results and frankly they should be. Donald Trump was a candidate remarkably few expected to win and as such most were wholly caught off-guard about what would happen next if he did. Higher education experts were no exception though they can be forgiven somewhat given how little and how vaguely the President-elect spent discussing it.

That the fiction’s become reality has pundits and the press scrambling to say something, anything really, that helps put what a Trump presidency means into perspective when it comes to a higher education…

Carlo Salerno

PhD. Education economist. VP of Research @CampusLogic. Title is theirs, opinions are mine.

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