I became aware quite recently of “gapping”, the practice of U.S. universities to admit students without providing enough financial aid for them. The practice implies that financial aid people are aware that some of the students they admit will, down the road, end up burdened, some unduly. Private colleges are said to be 27% more likely to engage in gapping than public ones. A survey of Inside Higher ED and Gallup published recently found that 53% of public college directors and 74% of private ones said gapping was ethical. It seems that while there may be some in the higher education financial aid community who are conflicted about current practices, their concerns do not extend to informing students of the issues they face and the consequences of their borrowing. As we’ve all heard, student debt is not a small problem for a large number of young people. And now new data reveals that people from higher income, not surprisingly, are not affected by any of this; those from lower income have certain resources available, so the consequences of gapping end up particularly acute for middle income families and students.
It’s troubling that institutions which ought to know better, and who seem so eager to justify their higher and higher tuition, engage in practices at the expense of the future of their charges.