Equitable College Access- UCSD library

Equity in College Access Begins with Affordability

Guest Post – Jason Lacsamana, Director, Programs and Partnerships

In recent years, discussions around college admissions have spotlighted various efforts to enhance equitable college access. Some work has been done to improve access, such as direct eligibility and automated admissions. For instance, where I live in Long Beach, high school students are guaranteed direct admission into Long Beach City College, which undoubtedly improves access. There’s also been a concerted push to create seamless pathways from community colleges to four-year universities, a vital development for many students.


These are crucial steps forward but only touch on the deeper systemic issues plaguing higher education. One of the most glaring issues is the exorbitant cost of higher education. Public universities are supposed to be an affordable option. However, the actual cost is staggering – and rising. My alma mater, University of California, San Diego’s estimated average cost for in-state tuition is around $42,000. Over four years, this amounts to approximately $168,000. For families with multiple children, this financial burden becomes nearly impossible to take on.


Regardless of an individual or family’s financial standing, taking out student loans and paying them off indefinitely is becoming the norm. The overwhelming financial strain precludes many from buying homes or achieving other financial milestones and the lingering debt is indicative that our current system is unsustainable. Relying on merit-based grants and scholarships isn’t much of a better solution. Programs like government loan forgiveness are difficult to navigate and unreliable.


The value of higher education is undeniable. Beyond academic knowledge, college offers invaluable experiences in personal development and social interaction and should also expose students to diverse ideas and people. However, the benefits of college and the subsequent life-changing opportunities are increasingly out of reach for too many people.


The dream of affordable, accessible education has not materialized. As costs have soared, many forgo college altogether or seek more affordable options like education abroad. These aren’t acceptable alternatives and ultimately deny individuals equitable college access.


While current efforts to improve college admissions are essential, we must dig deeper to evaluate and address the root issue—affordability. To tackle the barriers preventing equitable access to higher education, skyrocketing tuition and fees must be fixed.


The idea for this post came after reading The Great College Redesign. I applaud Lumina Foundation’s efforts, and I had to ask myself what I would change to improve access. Have you read the participants’ suggestions? What do you think needs to change?