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Report: More Than 2,000 Schools Typically Deliver Minimum Economic Return to Students

At least 2,414 institutions, enrolling 18.3 million undergraduates, typically deliver the minimum economic return to students, according to a recent report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).Diane ChengDiane Cheng

“Rising Above the Threshold: How Expansions in Financial Aid Can Increase the Equitable Delivery of Postsecondary Value for More Students,” estimates how many colleges provide a minimum economic return for their typical student – labeled Threshold 0 – and highlights what can be done to improve affordability.

Threshold 0 is met if a student in question earns at least a high school graduate and enough to recoup their investment in college within ten years. Approximately 500 schools – with nearly 1.5 million undergrads enrolled – do not meet Threshold 0.

“A college education can and should be a steppingstone to a better living and improved quality of life for students,” said Diane Cheng, vice president of research and policy at IHEP. “But today, postsecondary value is not delivered equitably. Improving college affordability can have a marked impact on the value students receive. Policymakers should enact affordability programs that provide greater return on investment – especially for students who stand to gain the most from the mobility postsecondary education can provide.”

The report includes recommendations such as doubling the Pell Grant, investing in first-dollar free college programs, funding non-tuition expenses for students from low-income backgrounds, and avoiding narrow restrictions on student aid eligibility.