Displaced to Where?
A great question! A reader of last week’s blog post posed the above question to me on Facebook, no doubt prompted by last week’s concluding paragraph:
“Accordingly, of the 11,270 students displaced (a euphemism for students denied a PASSHE education):
6,334 of those displaced students were White;
2,320 of those displaced students were Black;
1,899 of those displaced students were Hispanic;
707 of those displaced students were Other.”
To answer the reader’s question, it is necessary to point out that we don’t know the names of the more than 11,000 less-affluent PASSHE students who were “displaced” between the years 2002 and 2011.
Nor do we know the names of an equal number of more-affluent students who replaced them in many hundreds of classrooms across the fourteen PASSHE universities. That is because of FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), a Federal law protecting the privacy of student education records.
And because we don’t know their names, there is no way of knowing where those 11,000 students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds may have gone after being displaced from PASSHE universities.
But we may safely infer that students from less-affluent families who couldn’t afford PASSHE tuition would have few options for a four-year college degree. Two-year community colleges might be one option for those students, but Pennsylvania with 67 counties has only 38 public community colleges.
As to the best answer to the question “Displaced to Where?
I would suggest this: “Displaced to a life of uncertainty, hardship and limited educational options.”
The Why Question
Having pondered the “Where Question,” as related to the displacement of less-affluent students, one may also ask an even more pressing question: “Why are less-affluent PASSHE students being displaced?
The easy answer is: “Because the PASSHE Board of Governor has implemented a gentrification policy.”
More fundamentally: “Why has the PASSHE Board of Governors implemented a gentrification policy?”
The answer to that question may be straightforward but it requires some background information.
For the past twelve weeks we’ve been looking into the gentrification of public higher education in Pennsylvania and across America. It is a national phenomenon in which so-called “public” higher education is witnessing an enormous shift in the demographics of its student body and, particularly, in the annual incomes of families sending their sons and daughters to so-called “public” universities.
The data show that enrollment by students from more-affluent families is rapidly growing while enrollment by students from less-affluent families is steadily shrinking. When such demographic shifts occur, it is common to characterize them as a “displacement” of the less-affluent by the more-affluent.
That sort of displacement is occurring in “public” higher education for the most basic of all reasons: The more-affluent families can easily afford “public” higher education; and the less-affluent families cannot! So enrollments by more-affluent students increase while those from less-affluent students decrease.
Note that the key to that decision is the “cost” that individual students must pay for admission. In this case the “cost” of admission is not the posted tuition (“sticker price”), but rather the actual and often variable (“bottom line”) cost to the student.
In the genteel world of private higher education, colleges and universities practice “tuition discounting,” a policy that permits academically qualified students from less-affluent families an opportunity to enroll thanks to “institutional scholarships.” This form of financial aid is funded by the difference between the institution’s posted annual tuition and the institution’s average annual cost to educate one student.
For financial reasons, tuition discounting is sustainable only when the tuition (“sticker price”) is higher than the average annual cost to educate one student for one year. The families of academically qualified students who can afford to pay the full sticker price do so; while families of similarly qualified students who cannot afford to pay the full sticker price are provided with “institutional scholarships” funded by the dollar difference between sticker price and average annual cost to educate one student.
In the cutthroat world of “public” higher education, as currently provided by the 14 PASSHE universities, only low levels of tuition discounting are permitted by current Board of Governors’ policy. As a result of this policy decision, many poor students can’t afford PASSHE’s tuition, while wealthy students can more than afford it. The net result is that many poor students get shut out of public higher education, and a growing number of wealthy students are getting inducements—unneeded State subsidies—to fill seats left empty by the absence of students that public higher education in Pennsylvania was created to serve.
Question: Was PASSHE gentrification the intended—or unintended—consequence of those decisions?
Answer: Having watched the 100% political control of the PASSHE system and its 14 universities over the past 20+ years, I am persuaded that gentrification is actually the intended result of Board of Governors' decisions.
Why Would the PASSHE Board of Governors Adopt Policies that Encourage Gentrification?
The answer to this question flows inescapably from the following facts:
1. Since 2002, the PASSHE Board of Governors has been totally subservient to the political best interests of the sitting Pennsylvania Governor, whether Democrat or Republican.
2. “Politics” for politicians is all about “getting and keeping power in a government,” according to Merriam-Webster.
3. Money is the key to “getting and keeping power in a government,” according to Jesse Unruh, author of the famous quote (“Money is the mother’s milk of politics”).
4. Politicians are always looking for affluent individuals to serve as donors to their political campaigns.
5. Quartile 4 parents of PASSHE students (average annual income $135,677) are a much better bet for campaign donations to politicians than Quartile 1 parents (average annual income of $17,873)!
Sad to say, when it comes to politics, it appears to be all about the money.
To be continued.