Arkansas State University is studying ways to be more “efficient” — make more money, in other words — and a Democrat-Gazette report this morning carried a nugget that should not be missed.

The article quotes Nick Kozlov of the Huron Consulting Group about enrolling, keeping and graduating more students


The largest opportunity in enrollment management, Kozlov said, was in ASU-Jonesboro’s discounts strategy.

“What was notable to us was that the net tuition revenue — so this was after the sticker price of tuition and the price that students ultimately pay once they get on campus — was lowest of the peer set,” he said. “Jonesboro has the lowest out-of-state tuition as well, and ultimately discounts its tuition by about 44 percent to students on campus.”

The consultants dove deeper into the discounts data, comparing it with expected family contributions, and found that ASU-Jonesboro was awarding financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis to students who demonstrate merit through test scores.

“What we see in practice is that those students that come from better-off families that are more able to pay are the students that have higher test scores and also apply earlier,” he said. “And so they are receiving the highest amount of aid, and what that ends up doing is leaving less aid for those students who are more in need and ultimately decreases retention when they cannot consistently afford college.”

Changing the way the four-year university awards aid could pull in between $1 million and $3.5 million, he said.

Shorter: Thems that got get. The rich get richer.

This is an old story encouraged by Arkansas policymakers and legislators. When you place emphasis on higher achieving students the facts dictate that poorer students will disproportionately be left behind. And minority students will make up a disproportionate percentage of that number.


The University of Arkansas grants tuition breaks to high-achieving out-of-state students. Thus Texas-Fayetteville. I doubt we are welcoming hordes of tired, poor bedraggled masses from Plano and Highland Park yearning to breathe the free air of Fayetteville.

The biggest scandal is the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, rigged by the efforts of Sen. Jimmy Hickey a few years ago to further benefit the already advantaged higher income families.  A high-stakes ACT test — and no longer grades — is the admission standard for lottery scholarships. The amount of money tiven to first-year students was also reduced. Oh, sure, the money can go up later, depending on academic performance, but poverty tends to be a huge factor in early college dropouts.


I did one analysis of the new rules a little over a year ago. It should have been a scandal, but no one, except Sen. Joyce Elliott, seemed to care.

The new rules produced a general drop in applications — 10 percent among whites and 40 percent among blacks. The actual lottery awards showed similar declines — 8 percent among whites, 36 percent among blacks.

The family income for winners rose from $78,000 to $84,000 — with black winners averaging $42,000 and white winners averaging $94,000.

There’s been some tinkering since, particularly to help community college students, but Huron’s study serves to illustrate the pervasive favoritism enjoyed by better-situated students when it comes to higher education.


Many legislators, of course, thinks this is fair. Strictly merit, see. They give no thought that merit might be more about the good fortune of birth — racial and economic privilege and a background unmarked by generations of discrimination.

Two things:

* Grades are a better indication of college success than test scores. Tests measure test-taking ability.

* Lottery scholarship programs in most states have become middle-class entitlement programs. Legislators like it. The middle class — far more influential than the poor — like it. We should just be happy that the Arkansas legislature hasn’t lifted the qualifying standard even higher. (See Georgia, where a 26 ACT now gets you a free Georgia college ride.)

* Lifting college completion rates is not about providing more money to kids who were going to college anyway, it’s about helping those most in need of help. This is not a belief much in favor these days in any aspect of Arkansas government. See: Poor people don’t “deserve” government health care; wealthy corporations and six-figure executives at chambers of commerce “deserve” government tax handouts.

Now I’ve gone and riled myself up. Got to go to the gym.