Rethinking Pell Grants

With the cost of Pell Grants soaring to $44 billion, it’s time to rethink the federal aid program for low-income college students. Should students get loans that convert to grants when they meet academic goals? How about bonuses for good performance or probationary grants for high-risk students?

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Comments

  1. How ’bout:
    1. Mandate that the five service academies design degree programs which students can complete entirely by exam and license Sylvan Learning Centers and the University of Phoenix to administer the exams at a cost to be determined by negotiation between the testing agency and the student. Let competition between the University of Phoenix and Sylvan drive the cost of a BA in English or BS in Math down to the cost of books and grading exams.
    2. Mandate that all tax-exempt recipient of federal tuition assistance (most universities) accept credits earned through this process toward their own degree programs.
    3. Mandate that all federal agencies and tax-exempt recipients of federal assistance (e.g., universities, State and local governments) assign to course credits and degrees earned through this process the same weight they assign to course credits and degrees earned through brick-and-mortar schools.

  2. Mark Roulo says:

    I’m not real wild about (1) as I would like the service academies to focus on producing officers.

    But … I’d be delighted to have the DoE offer $1B per year to UMich and Cal to do the same thing. The money to be withheld if they screw around by making the on-line degrees harder than the on-campus ones. And they can’t distinguish between an on-line degree and an on-campus one (this keeps them honest about trying to make the on-line ones “real”. If they make the degrees bogus, then they screw up their own brand).

    Do this for ten years and see what the results are. It isn’t like the DoE would be spending the money well anyhow …

  3. Mark,
    Good point about producing officers. Still, they would continue to do this in my proposal. The point of physical enrollment is personal observation, which the armed forces could do with entry-level placement anyway.

    The fact that States do not already mandate credit by exam is al the proof I need that the US K-PhD school system is mainly an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    I think all you need is to be patient, Malcolm.

    The state college systems are in financial trouble, for the most part (not, it appears, UMich …). Eventually, one of them is going to crack and offer an on-line (or on-line mostly) degree for ~5K/year or something like that. They will do it because creating and administering the tests is a lot cheaper than $5K/year and they will *REALLY* want/need the money.

    It won’t take off until one of the “good” schools does this … but there are lots of pretty good state schools in financial trouble. One of them will crack.

    We can actually already see it starting. Michigan Tech offers a number of on-line, pretty much exam-only courses already. Right now they charge full price for these, but if we’ve already established the principle, then all we need to do is negotiate price 🙂

  5. I’m just waiting ’til some Wall Street philanthropist bribes some Third World legislature to license a private college to do this, then take a case to the World Court and insist that GATT provisions on trade in services apply to “virtual” enrollment. You could get qualified Hindu, Chinese, or Russian PhDs to set up a testing facility in Costa Rica or Trinidad. Come for the sun. Go home with a degree.

  6. Cute Shaw reference, btw.

  7. What on earth would your “solutions” do? Pell grant explosions have occurred because near-illiterates want to go to college and have been encouraged to do so. They will not be helped by your fantasy of credential by self-study and test. So you aren’t offering a replacement for Pell, but your own little delusion of what you think college should be. The people who would benefit from your proposal are people who are capable of college.

    Should students get loans that convert to grants when they meet academic goals? How about bonuses for good performance or probationary grants for high-risk students?

    No and no. If the student were capable of doing college level work, he or she would not need incentives. The obvious solution is to require a baseline competence level but if we did that, close to 3/4trs of all underrepresented minorities would not hit the competence level.

  8. (Cal): “What on earth would your ‘solutions’ do?
    Federally mandated credit by exam would reduce the cost of the US K-PhD school system to taxpayers and the cost of a college degree for many students. One of the largest costs of school as it currently operates is the opportunity cost to students of the time they spend in school.

  9. Uh, duh. I know what you intend for it to do. But we’re talking about the explosion of Pell grants, so I assumed you knew that I was asking what it would do for the explosion of Pell grants.

  10. (Cal): “What on earth would your ‘solutions’ do?”
    (Malcolm): “…reduce the cost of the US K-PhD school system to taxpayers and the cost of a college degree for many students.
    (Cal): “I know what you intend for it to do. But we’re talking about the explosion of Pell grants, so I assumed you knew that I was asking what it would do for the explosion of Pell grants.
    The number and total cost of Pell grants is a direct function of student-years in the system. Reducing both the time it takes for a student to get a degree and the number of students who pursue degrees in brick-and-mortar schools will reduce the number and total cost of Pell grants. Seems to me, anyway.