Varsity Blues


             Little Rock       Once again, all the claims that colleges and universities want to recruit more lower income students and narrow the widening equity gap is exposed for what it mainly is:  talk.   Higher education institutions claim this is a priority, but the abysmal results year after year speak to how false the promises from most of them are, none of which can be blamed on the Supreme Court.

The government is also trying to make this happen.  The Biden administration’s Department of Education promised they would make the financial aid from a bit more streamlined and make it easier for lower income applicants.  The FAFSA application has always been a huge pain in south side.  One of my true-life accomplishments was getting one of my kids to fill out the application herself, when we were all living through these milestones of educational passage.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the best intentions paved a rough road.  First, the new applications weren’t ready in time which meant that the higher education folks could not use the form to compute their financial aid packages, and for sure they weren’t willing to make the judgment themselves on their own calculations.  Now, reportedly, DOE workers from the boss on down are pulling all-nighters because they overlooked 70,000 applications.  A for effort.  F for execution.

Cue up another problem, the new applications asked for a social security number, where the old ones did not, so now they are also trying to correct that because they have effectively screwed Dreamers and the children of immigrants.  They are trying to hack a fix with other forms of ID, but, darned, who was minding the store to let this mess unfold, especially when you are claiming the opposite?

At KABF, we are in the process of interviewing people who are asset limited from lower income families.  One of the questions we are asking in these “person-in-the-street” short takes in the wake of this slow moving disaster is whether financial aid would have been the difference between going past high school or not in their life journey.  We’re curious what they will say.   We’re also hoping they don’t just turn to us and say, “Yeah, I would have gone with aid, but it turns out there’s no way to get it.”  Keeping up with this higher-ed horror, we would have to say, “We hear you!”

Some might just point their fingers at the government, but I can’t go there.  For decades there was no common federal aid form and somehow these outfits could make financial aid available, when they wanted.  Many, if not most, have money.  If they really wanted lower income students, minority students, and new immigrant students, they could make this happen with no excuses and fewer all-nighters all around, both in their hallways and the applicants’ homes.