Sandy Baum


Making postsecondary education available to all those who aspire to it and have the ability to participate has been a clearly articulated goal of public policy over the last two decades. We have made considerable strides toward reaching this goal, but new problems have emerged in the meantime. One of the issues that has become more pressing in recent years is the question of choice among educational institutions available to students from varying backgrounds. Limited choice is an important issue, not only for low-income students, but also for students from middle-income families, whose access to higher education is generally assured, but whose parents might not be able to finance their educations at high-cost institutions. Part of the goal of equal access to higher education should be to allow students at all income levels to choose the alternatives most suited to their own personal needs. It is certainly reasonable to expect students who choose high-cost schools to make larger long-term financial commitments, but the choice of schools should be available. This essay focuses on the causes of the emerging perception among middle-income students that their educational opportunities are being restricted, and offers some potential solutions.