- 2018年03月14日19:19 来源：小站整理
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Max Russell had always been a conscientious student, but when his father died during his junior year of high school, he had to take on a 25-hour-per-week job to help his family pay the bills. The gig inevitably ate into the time he spent on homework, and Russell’s G.P.A. plummeted from 3.5 to 2.5, which complicated his ability to get the aid he needed to attend a four-year college. So he ended up at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. Last year, after finally qualifying for student loans and cobbling together some grant money, he transferred to Purdue University, one of the state’s top public schools.
At Purdue, Russell reconnected with Christopher Bosma, a friend from high school. Bosma’s family was considerably wealthier, but his entire tuition was free — as will be medical-school costs. An outstanding high-school student, he received a prestigious merit scholarship that covered both. Russell told me that he believed the two friends are about “equivalent in intelligence” but acknowledged that Bosma studied much harder in high school. He was unusually driven, he said, but it probably didn’t hurt that Bosma had the luxury of not having to help support his family.
Over the years, many state-university systems — and even states themselves — have shifted more of their financial aid away from students who need it toward those whose résumés merit it. The share of state aid that’s not based on need has nearly tripled in the last two decades, to 29 percent per full-time student in 2010-11. The stated rationale, of course, is that merit scholarships motivate high-school achievement and keep talented students in state. The consequence, however, is that more aid is helping kids who need it less. Merit metrics like SAT scores tend to closely correlate with family income; about 1 in 5 students from households with income over $250,000 receives merit aid from his or her school. For families making less than $30,000, it’s 1 in 10.
Schools don’t seem to mind. After years of state-funding cuts, many recognize that wealthy students can bring in more money even after getting a discount. Raising the tuition and then offering a 25 percent scholarship to four wealthier kids who might otherwise have gone to private school generates more revenue than giving a free ride to one who truly needs it. Incidentally, enticing these students also helps boost a school’s rankings. “The U.S. News rankings are based largely on the student inputs,” said Donald Heller, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Education. “The public universities in general, and the land grants in particular, are moving away from their historical mission to serve a broad swath of families across the state.”
This is obviously troubling for the students who need help, but it is also bad for the state economies that public colleges are supported by and are supposed to help advance. While merit aid sounds like an effective way to combat brain drain, there is no conclusive evidence that it works. One recent study by economists at Cornell and the University of Chicago found that “nearly all” of the spending on state merit-based scholarships had little effect on keeping students in state after they graduated. Merit aid may not even be a good deal for those who earn it. A recent study by researchers at Harvard Kennedy School looked at a scholarship program in Massachusetts in which high-scoring students get tuition waivers at in-state public colleges. It found that taking the scholarship actually reduced a student’s likelihood of graduating because they ended up at a school with a completion rate lower than one of the other schools they could have gone to. Peer effects matter, it turns out. The long-term costs of going to school among those who are more likely to drop out could outweigh the upfront benefits of a cheap education.
Financial aid, however, has a hugely positive impact on whether low-income students graduate. Among needier kids, the six-year graduation rate is 45 percent when grants cover under a quarter of college costs versus 68 percent when they cover more than three-quarters, according to Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher at Edvisors.com, a network of college-planning Web sites. If you look at comparable stats for high-income students, the amount of aid makes almost no difference. Their graduation rates are around 78 percent either way.
The share of Americans with college degrees has risen significantly in the last few decades, but almost all of the growth has been among children of wealthier families. The share of 24-year-olds from families in the top-income quartile who hold college degrees rose from about 40 percent in 1970 to 70 percent in 2011. The share from the bottom quartile, however, remained pretty flat, edging up to 10 percent from 6 percent, according to Tom Mortenson, a higher-education policy analyst with Postsecondary Education Opportunity. These graduation rates also matter. Not only is the gap between the earnings (and employability) of college grads versus high-school grads widening, but an increasing amount of research shows that having a higher density of college-educated workers boosts wages of even those around them without college degrees. Economists refer to the ripple effect as the “positive externalities” of higher education.
By devoting more aid dollars to the likely college students rather than to more marginal ones, states are limiting the overall pool of residents who will be able to obtain college-level skills. Perhaps just as important, they are also limiting the economic prospects of their entire populations. The institutions that try to maintain their commitment to needy students like Russell, even in the face of state-budget cuts, recognize that extending access to college isn’t just about altruism. It’s about investing in your future tax base. And that’s thinking outside the box.
马克斯·拉塞尔(Max Russell)一向都非常用功，但上高三那年，他的父亲不幸去世，拉塞尔不得不找了一份每周25小时的工作以贴补家用。这份临时工不可避免地吞噬了他做功课的时间，拉塞尔的平均绩点从3.5骤降至2.5，从而显著加大了他获取上一所四年制大学所需资助的难度。因此，他最终只得就读于印第安纳波利斯的常春藤技术社区学院(Ivy Tech Community College)。去年，他终于获得了办理学生贷款的资格，在拼凑了一些奖学金之后，他转学至该州最好的公立院校之一普渡大学(Purdue University)。
高等院校似乎并不介意。在州政府连续多年削减教育经费之后，许多院校认识到，即使给予富裕学生一笔折扣，他们依然能够带来更多资金。相较于让真正需要资助的学生免费上学，提高学费、然后给予四位本可以选择就读私立大学的富家子弟一笔相当于四分之一学费的奖学金，可以让学校获得更多收入。顺便说一句，吸引这些学生入学也有助于提升一所院校的排名。“《美国新闻与世界报道》(U.S. News & World Report)的大学排名主要是基于在校学生资源，”密歇根州立大学(Michigan State University)教育学院院长唐纳德·海勒(Donald Heller)说：“一般的公立大学，尤其是政府资助大学，正在与其服务于全州最广泛家庭的历史使命渐行渐远。”
这种局面显然让真正需要帮助的学生感到不安，但它也不利于为公立院校提供支持，并理应受到这些院校推动的州经济的发展。虽然优秀学生奖学金听起来像是一种抑制人才外流的有效方式，但并无确凿证据表明它产生了预期效果。在最近进行的一项研究中，康奈尔大学(Cornell University)和芝加哥大学(University of Chicago)的经济学家发现，就吸引学生在毕业后留在本州工作而言，“几乎所有”基于成绩发放的州奖学金都没有起到什么作用。甚至对于优秀学生奖学金的获得者来说，这笔交易也可能是不划算的。哈佛大学肯尼迪政府学院(Harvard Kennedy School)研究人员最近研究了马萨诸塞州一个为就读本州公立院校的高分学生减免学费的奖学金项目。这项研究发现，赢得奖学金其实减少了学生顺利毕业的可能性，因为这些学生最终上了一所毕业率低于他们本可以就读的其他学校的院校。事实证明，同伴效应至关重要。就读于一所学生更有可能辍学的学校的长期成本，可能会超过廉价教育带来的前期收益。
在过去的几十年中，拥有大学学历的美国人的比例显著上升，但几乎所有的增长都是由较富裕家庭子女创造的。《高等教育机会研究通讯》(Postsecondary Education Opportunity)的高等教育政策分析师汤姆·莫特森(Tom Mortenson)指出，在出身于家庭收入位居上四分位数的24岁年轻人中，大学学位持有者的比例从1970年的大约40%，上升至2011年的70%。但在出身于家庭收入位居下四分位数的24岁年轻人中，这项比率基本上没有变化——仅仅从6%微升至10%。毕业率也很重要。高中毕业生和大学毕业生的收入(和就业能力)差距正在不断加大，而且有越来越多的研究显示，拥有更高比例的接受过大学教育的工人，甚至可以提升他们周围那些无大学学位工人的薪水。经济学家把这种涟漪效应称为高等教育的“正外部性”。