Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Madison Initiative

I've been sweating what to make of the Madison Initiative for a long time, and not making much progress. This is, in the briefest and most simplistic of terms, the chancellor's proposal to up tuition significantly on those from better-off families and put the money toward need-based financial aid and increasing access to high-demand courses. It's hard to oppose those two things, but it's not without real problems. My strong sense is that any barriers to higher education for talented people are bad and having to jump through the hoops of getting financial aid is a barrier.

One local blogger at The Education Optimist has tackled this with gusto and if you care about the issue, I urge you to read her posts. Media coverage has been until very recently entirely one-sided and I'm glad to have this side of the issue articulated so clearly by but the current situation with regard to need-based financial aid is unspeakably bad — a disgrace to this university, as the graphic shows. Faculty and staff are contributing now to a big campaign for need-based aid but even a real success there won't be more than a drop in the bucket.

The only real answer, it seems clear, is massive increases in public support for higher education. In a sense, this initiative might be one shot at keeping the place from collapsing until we can address the fundamental issues. And we have to do that.

*I should mention that I'm in close agreement with her on any number of other issues, like this, and have now started reading that blog regularly.


Anonymous said...

Like you say, the Initiative doesn't address the underlying problems. I guess I might vote for it if it was a voting situation, but in the end, even if it's handled and developed well, it might not matter much: a band-aid can be a good thing to put on, but you should know that it's just a band-aid when you put it on.

The Stranded Preposition said...

Thanks for pointing this out.

One question, any chance of showing the same graphic with the cost of tuition next to the financial aid?

I read a few more of the link's comments on this topic, particularly on the whole high-tuition, high-aid model. Very helpful comments.

But I'm left wondering how to tell whether a school is trying to play with the private schools or just get out of the basement in both tuition and aid.