“Real Price of College”

Widespread confusion over college prices makes it hard for students to earn college degrees.  To help colleges better reveal and address this issue, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice is leading an initiative we call “The Real Price of College: Improving Estimates of Demonstrated Financial Need.” Supported with a $650,000 18-month grant from Lumina Foundation, the project is helping six Texas colleges and universities develop better ways to determine students’ financial need, provide more accurate estimates of cost of attendance, and improve communications related to financial need and price for students, their families, and institutional stakeholders.

“Our work demonstrates that when students don’t know what college really costs, they have trouble making ends meet, even falling short on money for food and housing,” says Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Founding Director of the Hope Center. “Community colleges and public universities are also dealing with their own budget crunches; we hope this project will help them identify cost-effective ways to help students.”

This project is especially important as federal policymakers consider better ways to assess and report on student need. Working within existing federal frameworks, the Hope Center team is implementing and testing ideas first outlined in work from Dr. Goldrick-Rab, including her book Paying the Price and a report issued by The Century Foundation.

Leading financial aid researchers Dr. Robert Kelchen of Seton Hall University, Dr. Douglas Webber of Temple University and Derek Price of DVP-Praxis are lending their collective expertise to this effort. The Hope Center’s project team includes Managing Director and Director of Research Dr. Christine Baker-Smith, Research Associate Dr. Tiffani Williams, and Associate Director Edward Conroy (a former financial aid practitioner).

Participants include:

  • Amarillo College
  • West Texas A&M University
  • El Paso Community College
  • The University of Texas at El Paso
  • Dallas County Community College District
  • San Jacinto College

“We can’t effectively address affordability if we can’t accurately and reliably understand costs and need,” says Jesse O’Connell, strategy director for federal policy at Lumina. “This initiative presents a timely opportunity to work with institutions and support students in an effort to bridge that gap, while also informing policy at a critical moment for higher education.”

We are grateful to funding from The Lumina Foundation for making this work possible