Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: “Tough Love” Standards Should be Applied to Colleges

Low-income students are more likely to attend colleges and universities that do the poorest job of producing graduates.

And on the other end of the spectrum, many elite higher education institutions are doing little to enroll poor students. 

A new report from the advocacy group The Education Trust entitled “Tough Love: Bottom-Line Quality Standards for Colleges,” suggests that the government should impose quality standards on both sorts of institutions.

It also suggests that in order to receive federal aid, the institutions should be held to college access and completion standards — and should face funding cuts if they fail to persistently meet those standards.

The Education Trust suggests three standards that higher education institutions must be held to. That they (1) have a full-time freshman enrollment made up of at least 17 percent Pell Grant recipients, (2) their six-year, full-time freshman graduation rate is 15 percent, and (3) the student loan repayment rate is acceptable (less than 28 percent of former students default on loans).

Institutions that do not improve on the measures over the course of several years could face sanctions including losing institutional grant and tax benefits and eligibility to receive federal financial student aid. 

The report also points out that many low-income and minority students “under match” — meaning that they tend to enroll in colleges that are less selective than what they are qualified to attend. Those colleges also have lower graduation rates. In addition, many elite schools with high graduation rates are not making progress with admitting high numbers of low-income students. 

The report rationalizes the “draconian” step of refusing aid to low-performing colleges.

“In the end, taking away all federal aid is the only way to send an unequivocal message to students that these schools will not serve them well and they should enroll elsewhere,” the report notes. “Sadly, it may also be the only way to send an unequivocal message to those who run these institutions that it is neither ethical nor acceptable to take hard-earned money from students when you don’t have the capacity to see them through to the degrees they seek.”

According to the report, the lowest-performing 5 percent of colleges for failing to graduate at least 15 percent of freshman include many for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix. The list also includes a number of Hispanic Serving Institutions, which enroll a student body that is at least 25 percent Latino.