- Financing Higher Education Worldwide: Who Pays? Who Should Pay?
Over a number of decades, D. Bruce Johnstone has examined cost sharing from an international perspective. In recent years, he has worked alongside Pamela Marcucci to run the International Comparative Higher Education Finance and Accessibility (ICHEFA) Project, which has housed numerous studies of cost sharing in specific countries. By studying this phenomenon over numerous years and across numerous contexts, the authors have developed a nuanced and deep understanding of cost sharing, which allowed them to write an excellent book.
Johnstone and Marcucci use the term cost sharing to describe any policy shift that increases the amount that students and/or parents pay while a student is enrolled in a higher education institution. Cost sharing rises when tuition increases, grants decrease, the interest rate on loans grows, and residence and dining hall fees increase. Even when tuition and fees are low or nonexistent at public institutions, cost sharing can occur through restrictions on the capacity of the public sector, which causes many students to enroll in private institutions and pay high tuition levels.
The authors argue that the rise of cost sharing is driven primarily by a few general forces. The number of students demanding enrollment is increasing as is the cost per student, which means that increased cost sharing is required unless governmental funds increase substantially. Governmental revenues are faltering, however, and other societal needs are also exerting a strong pull on public dollars. Although Johnstone and Marcucci argue that changing ideology has contributed to rising cost sharing, they view ideological shifts as minor relative to the above forces. Some readers on the political left might disagree with this part of their analysis. Those on the political right might also be bothered by this text, because the authors view cost reductions through improved efficiency as a partial solution at best.
The authors present this basic argument over the opening three chapters. This portion of the book is accessible, so it can serve as a great introduction for those new to the topic. The discussion also possesses substantial depth, so it can extend and sharpen the knowledge base of advanced readers. [End Page 349]
After establishing that cost sharing will rise in the future, the authors devote chapters three to seven to examining how we can most effectively increase cost sharing. They provide a nice description of the challenge: If parents are targeted for cost sharing, effective means-testing policies are required. If students are targeted for cost sharing, effective loan policies are needed. The authors provide an overview of the various types of tuition, means testing, and loan policies and describe the key elements contained in each policy.
Portions of these chapters will only be of interest to those specializing in this area. For these policies to be effective, a large number of policy elements must be carefully designed and implemented. Loan policy, which receives the greatest attention in this book, is incredibly complex, requiring policymakers to determine the lender, source of capital, form of repayment obligations, form of subsidization, loan amounts, loan limits, and numerous other items. Within each, a host of technical questions arise. Johnstone and Marcucci effectively describe this landscape and do not get overly mired in detail, but in general, much of this material will only be valued by those specializing in this area. For those specialists, however, the presented material is quite helpful.
The distinctive contribution of this book is its international focus. Throughout, the authors effectively illuminate their points by pointing to individual countries or comparisons across countries. In several places, they provide basic descriptions of every country for whom they have collected data during past ICHEFA studies. The primary purpose of this book, however, is not to describe how higher education systems vary across countries. Instead, the authors seek to describe generally the rise of cost sharing and the ways in which cost sharing can be implemented most effectively. The authors lead with general considerations rather than considerations specific to...