David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Bracketology: Money Regional

March 17, 2013:  Bracketology -- Day One

As I have done in the past, I have created a NCAA-inspired bracket for something non athletic in higher education. This year, it is the College Challenge Tournament where I rank 64 challenges to higher education.  You can see the entire tournament listing here. (I apologize that there is no actual bracket; major uploading of files issue, so hence the shortcut at the link.)

There are four regionals:  the money regional, the student experience regional, the faculty experience regional, and the general regional. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will review each regional and determine which 4 challenges will make the final four -- to be held in Washington, D.C., in front of a senate hearing.

Let's start with the money regional, the one probably hardest for me to always explain.  Sort of like why the ACC is always over-rated.  In general this region is split between financial aid issues and general money-related issues at most colleges and universities.

The 1 vs 16 seed is the classic Tuition vs. Fees battle.  Tuition wins easily.  It is amazing how students, parents and outsiders can jump all over tuition costs and basically not even blink over techology fees, participation fees, and even "pedestrian fees" (see Worcester College).

#8 Complexity of Financial Aid applications goes up against # 9 Gainful Employment.  Gainful employment, the requirement that financial aid must link to programs that clearly lead to jobs, wins because it has all the momentum.  In some ways, FAFSA forms have become easier to fill out, and colleges spend a lot of time and resources helping students and parents; G.E. (and not G. Damn E., as we might call it) is a frightening force no one wants to take on.

Student Credit Cards (#12) stand little chance of outlasting Textbook Costs (#5).  One can always argue that students have a choice not to jump on the easy, attractive credit card offers but have little choice but to buy that latest edition of the Accounting textbook that costs $200.  But, hey, why worry?  Johnny has a new Visa card.

Endowments (#13) going down everywhere will put up a small fight against #4 Summer Pell Grant Money, but the fact that students can't get summer pell grant money will affect graduation rates (the #1 seed in general and the #1 seed in the whole tournament).  It's hard to ignore that logic . . . or illogic, as the case may be.

The #2 seed Financial Aid Default Rates is a juggernaut that can crush #15 seed Financial Aid Scammers.  Because no one seems interested in going after the "students" that scam financial aid for purposes other than school, but everyone wants to go after the institutions who have large number of students, these scammers a major part, defaulting on their loans.

#7 Athletics, even surprised it is in the money regional, and not the general regional, can eke out a close victory against #10 Appropriations.  However, athletics is money that to some degree institutions can control, and they may only look to athletics even more as the appropriations continue to dry up.  (Besides even the private institutions can't avoid the lure of athletics, but learn to live without the appropriations.)

The For Profit Institutions are also surprised to be in the money regional, and probably a little surprised they are #6 seeds, given the visibility of them.  That means they are pitted against the much more hidden #11 seed, Dual Enrollment of high school students.  With government supporting dual enrollment much more than supporting for profits, that means that the for-profits come out on top in this reversal of fortunes.  

Wrapping up the money regional are #3, Student Debt vs. the #14 seed of Building Projects.  Everyone wants fancy dorms, student activity centers, and state-of-the-art classrooms, and somewhere down the line it all piles up on the back of student debt, which runs away under that weight in a rout.

Eventually Tuition goes up against Textbooks, which put up a huge fight, but ultimately represent this tourney's version of Albany vs. Duke.  Financial Aid Default Rates walk through to a regional final against Tuition, but ultimately lose out because headline writers everywhere find tuition so much easier to define.

The next blog will focus on the student experience.