The gimmick scholarships

University’s let the private sector solve the question of access.

Last week saw the kickoff of the Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge, a competition MTV and the College Board set up for students to invent new ways to “connect” with money for school using the Internet. Put in other words, the contest seeks to simplify the financial aid process — a worthwhile goal that points to the troubling trend of private money funding education.
If an education’s affordability and accessibility are so important, why do two-thirds of aid applicants say they had difficulty with the process of obtaining public funding for their education? Why do universities jack up tuition and leave it to students to figure out how to make their education affordable and accessible? Why are we turning to MTV?
Our own University of Minnesota is an example of increasing reliance on private support. It’s held fund-raising drives for scholarships to offset the doubling of tuition over the past 10 years. The University’s goal is to eventually have 10,000 students receiving aid from these private scholarships. Helping students afford college with private funds is great when it makes college more affordable.
But these scholarships are trying to help students tread water, as the state and federal governments, along with the University itself, fail to keep higher education affordable. Across America, public universities are turning to the private sector to rescue them from their own mistakes. Private money helps students, but what is supposed to be the public education system’s overreliance on it is a worrying trend.