Today in the NY Times, Steve Cohen argues that the federal government should reform the criteria by which families’ “expected family contribution” (EFC) is determined.  The EFC is the amount a family is expected to pay to a college or university for student costs, as opposed to what students can get from Pell Grants, loans, and an institution’s financial aid apparatus.  Taking as his example a family of four with an income of $100,000, Cohen argues that the EFC should be lower, allowing “middle class families” to pay less.  I’m all for making college more affordable for everyone, but that’s not what Cohen’s about in this article.  Without more money in the system either for aid directly to students or to fund universities, or lowered overall college costs that can be passed on to students, his solution to have well-to-do families pay less would only increases costs for students from US households lower down the economic scale (which is 72.3% of them, according to this calculator) than what he thinks as a prototypical “middle class family.”  It solves none of the really tough cost problems in higher education–rather, it only serves to feed the gripes of well-to-do Times readers, most of whom are not middle-class, but upper class.  What we really should do is to make college free for everyone.

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