The private college trap

The Globe Magazine over the weekend carried a provocative headline: “Work hard. Go to college. Get ahead…and other bad advice we’re giving low-income students.”

The story by Neil Swidey doesn’t quite match the headline, but it nevertheless paints a very troubling portrait of low-income students getting in way over their heads financially at what Swidey calls nonselective private colleges.

Schools such as Dean College in Franklin, Becker College in Worcester, Curry College in Milton, Anna Maria College in Paxton, Pine Manor in Chestnut Hill, Mount Ida in Newton, Fisher in Boston, and Lesley in Cambridge are filling their classes with low-income students who can’t afford the tuition. Even if the students graduate, which relatively few of them do, they won’t earn enough money to shed the debt that will trail them for decades to come.

Stephen Burd, the author of a study on college affordability for low-income students, doesn’t mince his words. “I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really make sense for low-income students to go to private colleges unless those colleges have the resources to meet the students’ full financial need and have high success rates with graduation,” he says.

Swidey’s story suggests a college degree remains a valuable commodity. Citing research by the Brookings Institution, he reports that a low-income student with a bachelor’s degree will earn 91 percent more over his career than someone with just a high school degree. But the research suggests college graduates from well-to-do backgrounds do even better. They start their careers earning a third more than their low-income counterparts and earn 162 percent more over their career.
Swidey concludes that the financially sensible decision for a low-income high school student seeking to avoid being buried in debt is to attend a community college and then move on to a four-year public college. Last week, however, the Pioneer Institute issued a report suggesting that path may be getting harder to follow as UMass enrolls more and more out-of-state students, who pay $46,000 a year compared to the in-state tuition rate of $26,000.

UMass President Marty Meehan, in an interview with Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, doesn’t apologize for the university’s pursuit of out-of-state students or its appeal to in-state students who would have previously attended private schools. He noted students who attend community colleges and get good grades are guaranteed admittance to UMass.

“We have no obligation to put the brakes on because it might hurt private universities,” Meehan says. “This report is about protecting those private institutions in this state that want to charge more and deliver less than UMass does. These institutions have lost enrollment, some of it to UMass, because people are  making the rational decision to opt for the affordable quality that UMass provides.”




A superior court judge is allowing a lawsuit to proceed against the state related to conditions under which mentally ill patients are confined at problem-plagued Bridgewater State Hospital. (Boston Globe)

Twenty-seven correctional officers were honored at the State House. (State House News)


Brockton police collected a dozen working handguns and shotguns on Saturday in exchange for $200 grocery gift cards in a buyback program officials deemed a success and likely to be repeated. (The Enterprise)


James Pindell says the Clinton vs. Trump polls have tightened because Trump has cleared the Republican field while Clinton is still battling with Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. (Boston Globe)

Hillary Clinton may leave it to Priorities USA super PAC to inflict the hardest hits on Donald Trump, while she tries to stay out of the mud. (The New Republic)

Bill Weld goes on Meet the Press to talk about his vice presidential bid on the Libertarian ticket.

David Cay Johnston writes that Trump has a long history of dealings with mobsters. (Politico)


Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association which opposes the so-called “millionaires’ tax,” says it’s misleading to tell voters the money will be earmarked for education because appropriation questions cannot be on the ballot. (Keller@Large)

The chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer has offered to buy Monsanto for $62 billion, creating the world’s largest maker of crop seeds and pesticides. (Bloomberg News)

Market Basket pursues an aggressive growth strategy. (Lowell Sun)


School districts are grappling with the transgender bathroom issue. (Gloucester Times)

Student leaders of the “Black at BLS” effort at Boston Latin School say they’ve seen little progress in addressing race issues since they first raised concerns half a year ago. (Boston Herald)


North Shore Hospital in Salem will stop doing cardiac surgery and send its patients needing such care to Mass. General Hospital, a reversal of the strategy Partners HealthCare said it would pursue of having more routine care provided at its community hospitals, not its higher-cost Boston flagship facilities. (Boston Globe)

That thing about breakfast being the most important meal of the day? Something else your mother lied to you about. (New York Times)


A Globe editorial says hydro and wind power both have important roles to play in the state’s energy future and shouldn’t be pitted against each other.

Environmental police arrested a Rhode Island man in Bourne for poaching 153 black sea bass, including about half below the 15-inch limit, and expect more arrests as the spawning season begins and fishermen take undersized fish to meet a growing desire by restaurants for fish that will fit entirely on a plate. (Standard-Times)


A 42-year-old Auburn police officer and father of three, Ronald Tarentino, was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop early Sunday. The man believed to be the killer was himself shot and killed by police as they burst into an Oxford duplex where he was holed up and wounded a State Police trooper before he was shot. (Boston Globe) The shooter, Jorge Zambrano, had a long criminal record. (Telegram & Gazette) Former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis writes that the officer’s killing reminds us of the heroic sacrifices law enforcement officers make. (Boston Herald)

A Globe editorial says a systematic resolution is needed for the 24,000 drug cases now believed to be tainted by the work of two different state chemists.

The New York Times examined the 358 shootings in the country last year in which four or more people were killed or wounded and found the vast majority occurred in economically distressed areas, involved mostly blacks, and went unreported in the media outside their region.

Naoka Carey, Ben Forman, and Geoff Foster say expunging the criminal records of juveniles would give them a legitimate second chance. (CommonWealth)


Dan Kennedy offers a quick critique of the new digital offerings from the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. (Media Nation)


Gov. Charlie Baker’s 83-year-old mother, Elizabeth Baker, died on Saturday after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. (Boston Globe) Gov. Baker spoke with bracing candor last year to an audience at Mass. General Hospital about the devastating toll the disease has taken on his mother’s side of his family. (CommonWealth)