Lauren Asher

Lauren Asher: Access to College for Low-Income Students and Families (#141)

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Our Guest Today: Lauren Asher

Lauren Asher (right) is the president of Asher Policy Consulting. We met in 2004. 

She is a policy expert in student loans and financial aid for low-income students and families

Lauren Asher breaks down several misconceptions. Did you know going to school part-time and attending community colleges are always cost-effective to low-income families? 

Really? I was just as surprised as you are. 

According to the CNBC, “Roughly 70 percent of grads leave college with student debt, and over 44 million Americans hold a total of $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.” This episode is relevant to all of us. 

For the 14 years I’ve known Lauren, we’ve spent very little time together as a result of her travel and work schedule. Despite the distance between us (Boston to San Francisco), I looked up to her as a mentor and a female leader I had a tremendous amount of respect for. 

Here’s the thing: I could never quite tell you what her job was (though I always knew it was important, and she made a huge difference in people’s lives).

Selfishly, this episode is an opportunity for me to dive deep with Lauren and find out the What and the Why. For over 10 years, Lauren served as the President of The Institute for College Access and Success. Her job was to “align policies and systems with the lives and needs of low-income students and families”. 

Perhaps we think we know a thing or two about “how policy is made”. According to SparkNotes, in order to be made official, public policy legislation goes through five steps:

  1. The national agenda
  2. Formulation
  3. Adoption
  4. Implementation
  5. Evaluation

In plain English, Lauren explains to us how it works, and her role is in influencing the adoption and implementation of the policy.

Recently Lauren left her The Institute for College Access and Success to start her own consulting company.  She talks about her transition and who she hopes to partner with during the next chapter of her career. 

“Transition” is not only a popular subject on Feisworld, but also one of the very reasons why we started the podcast. As the new economy continues to emerge, most people we know – including our guests – are going through some sort of transitions themselves. 

Lauren has devoted much of her professional life to helping the under-serviced community and non-profits. If this career path interests you in any way, I hope you enjoy listening to Lauren’s story and find your own path. 

Show Notes

[06:00] Tell us about what it means to help low-income families and students?

[11:00]  Most of the financial aid programs and policies are cryptic on purpose because otherwise, they end up costing more money. What’s your take on this?

[13:00] What was going through your head 10-15 years ago when you started this career?

[17:00] How do you advocate for what you believe in, and what are the issues you are really drawn to? What’s that process like?

[20:00] What are some of the things that you thought would be easier and turned out to be more difficult, and vice-versa?

[25:00] How do you manage to prepare a speech for what you advocate for that is time-limited? 

[29:00] How should low-income families go about selecting the college that suite their needs?

[33:00] What resources and help families can get to calculate costs?

[36:00] How can people educate themselves ahead of time about the college aid application process?

[38:00] What do you want to do next? Tell us a bit more about Asher Policy Consulting. 

[40:00] What are some of the people and companies you want to connect with?


Favorite Quotes

[10:00] My passion really was the work where I could come home at the end of the day and I’ve done something to help people who weren’t as lucky as I was. I was born into a white family of people who’ve been living in the US for a couple of generations, with college degrees and good jobs. I never had to worry about where to live and if there was food on the table. Those are tremendous privileges who are easy to be blind to.

[14:00] The work I ended up doing is about how do you empower the folks on the ground with better information, simpler processes, more rational and helpful resources, so that they can do their jobs more easily and people coming for help can get the help they need.

[18:00] Whatever issue you are working on, advocacy has this basic arc, that it never looks the same twice for the way you actually apply it, because you are dealing with such a complex world. It’s changing all the time…

[20:00] People didn’t identify as borrowers, there was no community of borrowers, there was no story that told a public clear narrative of how we ended up with so many people with student loans. It was treated like a personal problem, YOU have a student loan. And there wasn’t a movement to find solutions because there wasn’t a sense that there was a systemic problem.

[34:00] The advice I can give is: don’t stop at sticker price. There’s always a better alternative, you can always seek for help and aid, don’t underestimate it.

[41;00] There are a lot of things I can do reasonably well (as it’s the case for many people), and it makes me happy to know I’m good at them, but it is still not the same as ‘what makes me happy, really’…

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Fei Wu 0:01
Hey, hello, how are you? This is a show for everyone else. Instead of going after top one person on the world, we dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsung heroes and self made artists.

Lauren Asher 0:35
For me, there has to be a really clear connection to what it’s going to be like for someone to live their life and how my work could maybe make that better. The work I’ve ended up doing through most of my professional life is about how do you empower the folks who are on the ground with better information, simpler processes, more rational and helpful resources, so that they can do their jobs more easily. And the people who are coming to them for help can get the help they need. Whatever issue you’re working on, advocacy has a sort of basic arc, but it never looks the same twice for the way you actually apply it. Because you’re dealing with such a complex world, things are changing all the time. Like people didn’t identify as borrowers, there was no community of borrowers, there was no story that told a kind of public linear narrative about how we ended up with so many people having to rely so much more on student loans that anybody really realized it was treated like a personal problem, you had student loans, and there wasn’t a movement to find solutions because there wasn’t a sense that there was a systemic problem. A lot of times that you feel unsettled. They’re part of a journey to the next place, you kind of have to go through shaking things up a little bit to figure out where you want to land and sometimes, the landing happens without you even realizing it.

Fei Wu 2:13
I there, it’s your girl Fei Woo, and you’re listening to the face world podcast. I created this very platform about three and a half years ago to give this platform to people who didn’t have one. The podcast has also served as a springboard for me to start my own consulting business, leaving my full time job to become a full time freelancer. Speaking of people going through transitions. Joining me today on face world is Lauren Asher. Lauren is the president of Azure policy consulting. Most recently, Lauren served as the president for the Institute for College Access and Success. Her focus is aligning policies and systems with the lives and needs of low income students and families. Since social service has been one of the two most popular categories on face world, the other being Performing Arts. Lauren is a great candidate for our show, I thought, and I waited for a very long time to record this. She was an iron woman, and she still is today, one of the most intelligent and determined one I know. 12 years after Lauren had been with her company, she decided to take some time off and then build her own consulting company. As a friend. I just couldn’t be happier for her. I always knew that she had a lot of potential capacity. But first, I want to fully understand what she does, and what she might want to do next, last but not least, how I can help and who I can connect her to. Selfishly this episode was my own research into Lauren’s life. As a nonprofit leader and policy expert. I guess we could all agree that we don’t always fully understand what our friends do. What sir in 2018, and probably for the past few years, is that people are constantly going through transitions, full time to freelance freelance to entrepreneurship. To witness a transition action was something I had want to capture and share with the face world audience at large. Because it’s a shared voice. Laura has devoted so much of her professional life to help people in need. She even explained all the misconceptions of a college education for underserved families, some will most likely raise an eyebrow or two, for example, going through school part time isn’t necessarily strategic, if you come from a low income family, and community college, on the other hand, isn’t always cost effective. What about working for nonprofits? You hear those all the time on NPR? Right? But how does someone do it? Would you ever ask your children to pursue a career like this? How do they navigate the system of a nonprofit organization? Let’s decode that in this episode as well. Why not? If you like this one, please consider Subscribing to our newsletter. It’s an infrequent newsletter I curate for my listeners, fellow content creators to not just help them find their breakthrough ideas, but also to help them embrace the plateau and to merge on when it feels most difficult. You can subscribe very easily at face For slash newsletter without further ado, please welcome the lovely long waited Lauren Asher to the face world podcast

Lauren Asher, thank you so much for joining me on face world. Thank you, Faye. It’s been three years since I’ve been pursuing this episode. So I feel a sense of accomplishment sitting here, hotel Nikko, which you have selected for us, and looking over you know a lot out to the window and see all the possibilities we’re going to be chatting about. So what intrigued me for all these years to want to talk to you is because you’re in an industry that is so important. And it’s not just about who you work for, but your belief system, and the things that you care about, and the people you still care about very much. So without further ado, I want to mention and to get your title, right. So the things you care about are aligning policies and systems with the lives and needs of low income students and families. So tell us a bit about like what that what that means. And in general,

Lauren Asher 6:33
it’s hard to know where to begin. So I spent most of my career working in social policy, so on trying to make systems and resources and expectations and opportunities work better for people who in this great rich country of ours, ought to have real opportunity to succeed in their lives, in their work in their parenting, that are all too often constrained by structural and historical limitations that have nothing to do with their intelligence or their merit or their ability and willingness to work hard. So in policy, which can be at the federal state, local level, it can be the policies of a college and university or of a community institution decisions people make about how things are going to work, affect who benefits and who doesn’t. I’ll give you an example. So for many, many, many years, America has lagged behind all other developed countries in the kinds of supports that we provide to the parents of new babies, as well as to people who have to care for sick family members, including their own parents. In the first weeks of President Clinton’s first term, the first law he signed was called the Family Medical Leave Act. Now, I was not involved in the nine years it took to go from building support for protecting people’s jobs while they had to take care of a new baby or a sick family member even themselves where they were sick. But I was part of a government agency and then of a nonprofit organization that work to make sure that that law, that the words that were signed into law, actually translated into rules and systems that would let people benefit as intended. So a lot of it was really technical, like, how do you define what is sick enough to merit job protection while you’re on leave? What is the process that employer needs to go through? What is the process that the employee needs to go through? Who can you call? If you have a question about it, it took five years after that law passed, for there to be a simple 800 Number. The people could call it the Labor Department. They used to be told to call their regional labor department office. I mean, most people don’t even know there is a regional labor department office, let alone how to find it. It’s not their fault. System was too complicated. So for many years, I was involved in making sure that people knew this law existed and knew how it could protect them, figuring out where people would get that information, like they might not at that time going to the web wasn’t really an option. So we went to social workers, we went to nurses organizations, we went to adoption, support groups, all kinds of women’s magazines, all kinds of places where people might turn for information when they really needed it. We worked on simple q&a materials, and on making sure that not just the government but other organizations could provide good advice to people and make sure that employers were doing what they were supposed to do. And that employees knew what they were entitled

Fei Wu 9:41
to. That makes sense, that absolutely makes sense. And to me, I can relate in the way that on a much smaller scale. I remember all the employers that I once employed me at some point. And you know, there are simple things like the I think it’s called the employee support or service program. RMS, which was there in the brochure when we signed up, but very few people took advantage of it, because it’s very, very cryptic. And many say it’s on purpose. And what I learned was if every single employee or the majority of them actually took advantage of those programs will actually cost the employers a lot of money. So what I’m hearing is somewhere along the same line of maybe the policies, the programs where they’re kind of cryptic on purpose,

Lauren Asher 10:28
yep, that can happen. So through my career, I started off actually working in film and television production, because I was really curious about it. And I had a great time, actually. But I also figured out that while it was my interest, it wasn’t my passion. And my passion really was on work, where I could come home at the end of the day, and feel like I had done something to try and help people who weren’t as lucky as I was, I was born into a white, a family of people who had been living in the US for a couple generations who had college degrees, graduate degrees, good jobs, you know, I never had to worry about where I was going to sleep at night, or if there’s gonna be enough food on the table, I never had to worry about paying for college. Those are tremendous privileges that are easy to be blind to. And for me, what was really satisfying day to day was working with other people with a passion for social justice. And doing that in a way that was about trying to make laws and systems and even really technical processes more practical and accessible. And one of the things I’m most proud of stuff from my 13 years spent at the Institute for College Access and Success, which I recently stepped down from, is that we got the system that you use to apply for student aid when you’re going to college. To make a lot more sense for people, it now takes on average only about 20 minutes to get through this, what can be a very long form, if you print it out, it used to take hours, you go online, you can transfer your own data that you’ve already given the IRS into more than 20 questions on this form. And you can do it when you’re applying to college, it used to be you had to wait until months after you applied to college, you had to do a whole other set of tax forms. First, it was just really convoluted, really didn’t fit with when people needed the information. And there were clear fixes. It just took a few years to build up enough support and evidence and have the right people in government willing to listen, to make it all happen.

Fei Wu 12:38
There’s a series of questions coming out out of that one I can think of is, you know, you live in San Francisco, you’ve been here for a very long time. And you know, we’re visiting temporarily, but we’ve stumbled across a lot of people we meet here or who moved here. The reason for them to be here is to be standing next to very, very wealthy people. And, you know, to live in very expensive places and such. And on the flip side of that, what I’m hearing you is you kind of you know, we talked about this before, I feel like you’ve gotten the other side, which is to attract and interact with low income families and people and what was going through maybe just we have to go back 1015 years, what was going through your head to say this, this is a career I want to pursue this is something that actually interests me.

Lauren Asher 13:27
Well, to be fair, the work I do is usually several steps removed from working directly with low income people and connecting them to services day to day. The work I’ve ended up doing through most of my professional life is about how do you empower the folks who are on the ground with better information, simpler processes, more rational and helpful resources, so that they can do their jobs more easily. And the people who are coming to them for help can get the help they need. And why I ended up in that part of the nonprofit world and that piece of the whole cycle. I can’t tell you for sure, except that I came to San Francisco 17 years ago for a job at a foundation that came out of the Kaiser Family which helped build the chips during World War Two and put a lot of their money towards health care research and policy. And it was a weirdly kind of Washington DC job in the Bay Area. And then somehow continued to do mostly work focused on federal policy for 17 years from San Francisco and trying to raise money from people and foundations that would help support the causes I worked on. But what drew me here was a job and frankly, what kept me here was quality of life.

Fei Wu 14:49
Yeah. What about the quality of life isn’t the weather the food or something beyond that?

Lauren Asher 14:55
Oh, there are a lot of things that I love about Washington DC which is my hometown and where I lived for For nine years before I moved out here, I get those here plus a lot of other great stuff. So it’s a walkable Green City, great public transportation. People, though, are happy to live here in a way that was not often the case in my hometown or a lot of other people. Other places I’ve lived like, people come to California and come to San Francisco. At least, it used to be the case, because they wanted to be here. And there was just a joy in that it was a great place to be single, as an adult, a lot of cities kind of empty out of your peers as they start to get married and have kids. And if you don’t, at the same time, particularly DC, it can get a little isolating, I could always find someone to go for a hike on a Saturday morning, there was always something interesting to do. And now the weather’s great, the food’s great. If you can afford a place to live, which is an increasing challenge here, then it’s a terrific place, but it’s also becoming a really class stratified city have fewer children per capita in San Francisco than any other city.

Fei Wu 15:59
Wow. So it’s interesting that I actually came from in a way that I would call a military family. But I remember growing up, I just had no interest whatsoever talking to my dad about policies and systems and politics in general. But now as an adult, I’m incredibly intrigued by people in your position, who not only believe that you can influence them, but you have done that, and in your position for more than a decade, you know, what are some of the scenarios? And then I guess, at the beginning of your career, where maybe examples from more recent cases that and what is the process look like? You know, advocacy? Yeah. For advocacy, what do you find the issues are? And how do you go about approaching it?

Lauren Asher 16:44
In some ways, it’ll sound like lots of other things like, like, figuring out what kind of business to start I mean, you are drawn to certain kinds of problems, for reasons that maybe you don’t know, like, for me, why it is that I’m really drawn to issues around families. So I ended up working on education issues, not because I was an education geek, I’m more of a generalist, but it’s such a critical issue, not just for the person who’s going to college, but for their kids and for their parents. For me, there has to be a really clear connection to what it’s going to be like for someone to live their life and how my work could maybe make that better. The environments just as important, because we won’t have lives at all if we can’t figure out how to save the Earth. But for whatever reason, it doesn’t speak to me, in the same way for what I want to work on. I don’t know why. But whatever issue you’re working on. Advocacy has a sort of basic arc, but it never looks the same twice for the way you actually apply it. Because you’re dealing with such a complex world, things are changing all the time. It’s you figure, you identify a problem, there’s some problem that you really work on understanding how it came to be, and then what might help solve it. And then you start looking for different ways that you might be able to move a solution forward. Could you do it through law? Could you do it at the federal level? Or at the state level? Could you do it through shaming? If it’s something about employers? Maybe not? What are the levers that might help shift from where we are now to closer to where we should be? And which ones seem feasible given the environment? What are the conditions you would need? And can you create those conditions? What can you do to make a more favorable environment? Who do you need on board? Who are the interests are who has a stake in the issue on all sides? And which ones need to move? And how do you know how to do that? Do you need other people who have those relationships? Again, I think some of that’s just how you operate in the world when you’re trying to make anything happen. But you need to have a kind of sense of what your toolkit might look like. And it helps to know about how other people have done things before both in your issue area and in others and you just sometimes you’re just throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks, especially if it’s

Fei Wu 19:17
you are listening to the face world podcast. I’m your host Faye Woo. Today on our show. Meet Lauren Asher, president of Asher policy consulting. Her expertise is aligning policies and systems with the lives and needs of low income students and families.

Do you remember, do you recall scenarios when you thought things were difficult but maybe have gone more smoothly than you expected? Or things that appear easy at the beginning but turn are now to be really intricate and sort of complex to, to navigate.

Lauren Asher 20:06
It’s hard to pick just one of either and try and be succinct. For example, when I was working with someone who knew a lot about student loans and ended up getting a grant that let us start something called the project on student debt, we thought it was going to be a two year project to take an issue that affected millions of millions of people, but didn’t have a constituency like people didn’t identify as borrowers, there was no community of borrowers, there was no story that told a kind of public clear narrative about how we ended up with so many people having to rely so much more on student loans that anybody really realized it was treated like a personal problem, you had student loans, you might not even tell anyone else about it. And there wasn’t a movement to find solutions, because there wasn’t a sense that there was a systemic problem. People in higher education knew that this shift was happening, but it hadn’t been named. We didn’t even know what to call it like student loan debt, college debt, like we just kind of thought, well, student debt felt like it wasn’t just college the way people might imagine college. And we thought, well, we’ll, we’ll build awareness. And we’ll at that time, politically, the odds of a big new policy happening at the federal level were pretty small. But there was some money that we knew was being misspent in the federal loan program, that if it could get reallocated, maybe could go towards something better. We came up with a tax credit proposal because Republicans controlled Congress and tax credits were an easier sell than something else, we tried a bunch of different things. But we also made a very strong case for changing the way student loans are repaid, and making it easier for people to tie their payments to a reasonable proportion of what they earned. And also have a light at the end of the tunnel so that after a certain amount of time, if you’re making payments based on your income, and you still didn’t pay off your loans, you could move on. Because what you don’t want is for student loans, which are supposed to help people get ahead by getting an education actually put them farther behind. Anyway, after things change, the environment changed at the time we started, Republican President, Republican Congress, then there was a change in Congress and policymakers who were kind of interested in what we come up with thought, oh, maybe we can move it forward. And just through mechanisms, like how you can attach certain things to a bill that might not even be about that. We took what was a proposal that we done, as a regulatory proposal we took to the Education Department almost as a stunt just have something to point to because we knew they probably wouldn’t say yes, became a bill that became law was signed by President Bush at the time. And then we were in the business of figuring out how to help people find out about it and make sure that the rules for it, were going to be helpful. So it moves really fast, you can start something thinking you’re never going to spend two years raising awareness because there’s no way to move, a real change forward. And then a window will open up. It might be an election that changes the environment, it might be that you’re able to get new stories to get certain people interested in ways that that change the way people think about a problem. And then you want to make sure you’ve got your solutions kind of in your back pocket ready to whip out because you never know.

Fei Wu 23:22
Well, it sounds like the policy making an influencing policy and making something actually happen. Sounds to me very much like the making of a Disney animation that takes, you know, five, eight years, and in her case, hundreds of people involved. Oh, yeah, same thing. But one of the major difference is the politics in general does change. The one thing I can relate to that is the green card process. And I cannot tell you within five years, how many times the policy related to directly or indirectly related to the Green Card policy changed. And even the, you know, the lawyers will take the lawyers themselves three months to learn to process and to really understand and the moment they understand they submit the new paper, something else changes, you know, recently interviewed a woman who basically devoted her life to help with the Syrian crisis. And, you know, she talks about people who are waiting to be allocated to these countries, if the policy changes, they had already been waiting for 15 to 20 years. And now it just becomes another indefinite waiting period. And to me that it just so heartbreaking. You know, it’s fascinating, I know that you’ve thought it was a long explanation, but people actually want to know what it’s like. I think about all the places that you’ve been to and you know for invited as a speaker most recently in Brown University, where you graduated from, I think this episode is so special. Most people read those articles, some going in depth in details, but much of that and I’m interested in learning more as when you do have fun I have 15 minutes to speak about this very thing. And you sort of have to bundle things up. And then there’s maybe a marketing message. Everything’s abbreviated. Like how, since I’m not really there, I’m most events like, how do you go about?

Lauren Asher 25:15
It all depends on your audience, just like anything else. And I think your analogy to film production is a great one, because you have so many moving parts. And I’d say you probably have less control over the moving parts as an advocate than you do as a film producer. Although, as a film producer, you can’t control whether the people you work for are going to change priorities or change personnel. And that’s effectively like a change of politics, you know, what, what might be a funding stream that you thought you’d be able to get disappears, you might have someone attached to a project, who then decides they’d rather do something else, I mean, there’s always changed. So to get income based repayment for federal student loans from a concept to something that people could use. Now, more than 7 million people are in a program based on that policy model that we came up with, we did a lot of different things we brought, we went actually to people in the lending industry and people who might not naturally be aligned with our focus on students in low income borrowers, in particular, to see if there were ways of describing the goals of this policy model, this kind of plan that they felt comfortable with or that they didn’t feel comfortable with. And in the end, we got a lot of people, lenders, and students, and colleges rarely do all three agree, it’s hard to find two of those three interests, to agree on a lot of stuff, all signing on to the goals of the work. So rather than trying to make them agree to every little bit of exactly how it was going to be designed, which we wouldn’t have full control over anyway, because it was going to go through some kind of policy process, we got everyone to agree on the goals and to put their names on the dotted line. And we had a website where we could show dozens and dozens of members of Congress and people from all these different sectors saying, we think that the goal of fair and affordable payments and a light at the end of the tunnel is a good one. And whether some of those people came on and off over time, whether we were going to have to keep curating that list for 10 years or for one year for two we couldn’t predict. But once you get people signed up for a goal or principle, then it’s a little easier to get them to at least not oppose the more specific way it’s going to work. But to come back to kind of how do you take, I hate to be the it’s complicated person. But when you care about how things work, and not just what they sound like. And if you want to make sure that a slogan, turns into something real for people, and isn’t just a slogan that gets waved around for political purposes, you sometimes find yourself in that box. So talking to the press, talking to people who aren’t experts in the field, you always have to think about well, how much information is too much? And what do they really want to know like what matters to them. And what is my goal is my goal to be part of this story, in which case, you just say something inflammatory, you can be part of a story. But when you’re an advocate, your goal is to convince people or to humans, people, either that something that they think is right isn’t right. Or that something that you’ve got to say is worth paying attention to, and that they get there something that you want them to do. I think it’s like anything else marketing sales, the more you know your audience, the easier it is to figure out. And often, if you come at them with something unexpected, it helps them pay attention. So

Fei Wu 28:36
I definitely, like you said, there’s a complicated matter. And fortunately, unfortunately, sometimes people listening to podcasts or seeking content out want quick and easy solutions, not just student loans, but pretty much all aspects of life. So I’m intrigued to ask this question, which is, we’ll build up to that one thing that kind of opened my eyes. You know, when I applied to college, from a private high school, you know, my parents certainly didn’t have Slike. So like so much money, I had to be careful with my decisions. But the end of the day, first of all, we weren’t qualify for scholarships, student loans. So prices, the price range seems similar, whether it’s Harvard or some state college to us is all very expensive. But I remember the advice to me from my relatives where it’s not your problem, don’t worry about the tuition, just get into the best college you could get into. And then over the years, I realized how privileged that recommendation even was most of my friends from lower income families that their number one advice, if they’re lucky to have one was to go to community college or community colleges. And we started talking about this, this may or may not be a wise decision for them and I want to learn more about why and how should they go about seeking out a better position for themselves.

Lauren Asher 29:54
I sadly I think it’s a very small proportion of Americans. I are people who live in America who are raised in an environment where it’s assumed they’re going to go to college, and it’s assumed there’s going to be enough money to pay for whatever they might choose. But even just the assuming you’re going to go to college, let alone finish isn’t something that you can count on. For the vast majority of young people. That’s the advice they’re getting the advice they’re getting is try not to spend too much. And they probably can’t afford it. They may be getting it from their parents, they may be getting it from their school counselors, if they even are able to have an interaction. Sometimes the school counselors have hundreds or even 1000s of students per counselor, and in lower income schools and neighborhoods, they may even be getting it from schools themselves. They may know people who went to college and ended up not being able to finish or who went to things that call themselves colleges, but were really kind of rip off businesses and got left worse off than if they hadn’t gone at all. So it’s true that if you look at sticker price alone, just tuition and fees, community colleges generally look cheap. And community colleges are an incredible resource in this country. And here in California, we have our community college system. It’s one of the largest education systems in the world, and it enrolls one out of 10 American undergraduates. Wow. Yeah, and one out of five community college students in the country. It’s an extraordinary resource. But for students who are actually ready for four year school who are academically prepared for a four year school, being told to just go to community college, and particularly to go part time, can be bad advice, because community colleges serve the largest share of needy students, and they have the fewest resources to support them, which is wrong, it shouldn’t be that way. But also going to school part time research shows again and again makes you much less likely to actually finish school. So while the tuition and fees may be low, the total cost of being in school is not, you still need time, you know, and time is money, you need time to go to class, researchers, you need about two to three hours of study time and talking to teachers and students being on campus for every hour, that you’re in class to get a good grade for most people, you need to get to and from campus, you need a safe place to sleep, you need enough food, need a car that won’t break down or a bus pass that you can afford. Those things add up to the point where when you look at net price, which is you take tuition and fees, and all those other costs that are considered educational costs under law, and you subtract whatever aid you can get, you often end up paying more to go to community college than to a four year school.

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