A new poll by Gallup found that only 8 percent of university presidents believe higher education is affordable for all students.
The survey is the first in a series of quarterly studies on opinions of U.S. college and university presidents on key issues in higher education, including the affordability of higher education and the possibility of alternative education models.
The results found that, on a scale of one to five, with one being strongly disagree and five being strongly agree, 16 percent of presidents strongly disagreed with the idea that higher education is affordable for everyone who needs it.
Today the average cost of attending a four year private university is over $40,000. Sixty percent of students take out student loans to graduate with an average of $26,600 in debt.
Tom Blum, vice president of administration at Sarah Lawrence College, told loans.org that his university aims to make higher education affordable by creating financial aid packages that draw from all the major federal funding resources.
“Is Sarah Lawrence affordable for our students? The answer is yes. Is it a reach for some students? Absolutely, and the key to assuring that that reach is not obsessive is having a really superb financial aid office, which we have, and spending a lot of time with students,” Blum said.
At Sarah Lawrence, 61 percent of students take on an average of $20,000 in student loan debt throughout the education according to Blum. The sticker price of a four-year education at the school is upwards of $240,000.
“Quite honestly, not all students can afford Sarah Lawrence,” Blum said. “We believe that we make every effort possible to make it affordable for students who are academically qualified and ready for the kind of challenges that we provide.”
In addition to student loan assistance, Sarah Lawrence offers tuition discounts of 44 percent to approximately 60 to 70 percent of its students.
The survey focused on strategies for making education more affordable, including online course models. When asked about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), however, only 8 percent of presidents believed that model would reduce the cost of education for students.
“I think it is definitely an approach that over time, in the next three to five years, will have a substantial impact on the cost of providing a college education,” Blum said.
Blum said that liberal arts schools seem to approaching online models with more caution than other higher education institutions, but as the technology develops the model will expand.
“There are some institutions that are going to pick this up much more quickly. Community colleges will, for-profits will,” Blum said. “Some institutions that are going to pick it up more slowly, but they’re all going to realize a lower cost per student for delivering valuable content.”