January 13-15, 2016    Newport Beach, CA

Over 150 participants from around the country joined together in Newport Beach, CA to discuss the question of the year, is college worth it?   With political candidates debating debt-free education, student loan debt skyrocketing, and sticker prices exceeding the annual income of many families, it was a time for a true examination of college costs, student aid, and sustainable solutions.  The event brought together college presidents, higher education economists, and student aid experts to breakdown the realities of college cost and how to make it affordable for all.

Continue reading for a breakdown of the conference, presentation slides, media coverage, and live-blogging by Dr. Wendy Marshall of the Center.

Three Key Themes of Affording College: Costs, Debt, and the Way Forward by Donald Hossler

Senior Scholar Don Hossler Breaks Down Three Key Themes of Affording College: Costs, Debt, and the Way Forward, CERPP’s 2016 Annual Conference

In the 9th annual conference sponsored by the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice, we examined the intersection of societal concerns, public policy debates, and institutional anxieties about college costs. We focused on how institutions are dealing with more accountability, rising internal costs, less willingness to pay on the part of students, and the implications of a growing use of loan debt to pay for college costs.

There is no doubt that Great Recession exacerbated concerns about college costs. In addition, increases in underemployment and unemployment, stagnating or declining income, and historic high levels of tuition at all higher education sectors have resulted in increasing doubts about whether or not a college is affordable, whether it is worth it, and how students will repay growing levels of loan debt. Declines in state support for public institutions and a growing realization amongst non-medallion private institutions that they were losing prospective students because of costs – despite high discount rates, have resulted in greater internal scrutiny of institutional expenditure patterns.

With this introduction, there were 3 major themes for colleges and universities, but also for public policy makers, students, and parents. Read More Here


2016 Conference Program

 Media Coverage

Finance expert tells colleges: Take a fine-toothed comb to your budgets. Mikhail Zinshteyn, The Hechinger Report (01/14/16)

Wage trends, drops in subsidies raise university, college leaders’ concerns about affordability. Emily Gersema, USC News (01/15/16)

Might some colleges manage themselves into extinction? Mikhail Zinshteyn, The Hechinger Report (01/15/16)

Presentations and Sessions

Please click on each day for the conference blog. All available presentations are posted as PDFs.

Day 1

Day 2


  • Presidential Panel: The Presidential View of Cost, Price, and Value
    • Catharine Bond Hill, President and Professor of Economics, Vassar College
    • Barry Glassner, President, Lewis & Clark College




  • The Politics of Student Aid and College Costs
    • Barmak Nassirian, Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis, American Association of State College and Universities (AASCU)

Day 3



  • Experts Respond: Reverse Press Conference with Senior Education Writers
    • Scott Jaschik, Editor, Inside Higher Ed

Reading & Additional Resources

A Critical Look at the Business Model of Higher Education

Looking Back to Move Forward: A History of Federal Student Aid brought to you by The Institute for Higher Education Policy and the Lumina Foundation

Federal Partnerships with Campuses and States through Financial Aid


We gratefully acknowledge our sponsors whose generosity makes our conference possible:

College Board
International Baccalaureate
Texas IB Schools (TIBS)
USC Rossier School of Education