Phillip B. LevineSep 6, 2022
A Problem of Fit
How the Complexity of College Pricing Hurts Students—and Universities
University of Chicago Press 2022
According to A Problem of Fit: How the Complexity of College Pricing Hurts Students—and Universities (U Chicago Press, 2022) a college education doesn't come with a sticker price and perhaps, he argues, it should. Millions of Americans miss out on the economic benefits of a college education because of concerns around the costs. Financial aid systems offer limited help and produce uneven distributions. In the United States today, the systems meant to improve access to education have in fact added a new layer of deterrence. In A Problem of Fit Levine examines the role of financial aid systems in facilitating (and discouraging) access to college. If markets require prices in order to function optimally, then the American higher-education system--rife as it is with hidden and variable costs--amounts to a market failure. It's a problem of price transparency, not just affordability. Ensuring that students understand exactly what college will cost, including financial aid, could lift the lid on not only college attendance for more people, but for greater representation across demographics and institutions. As he illustrates, our conversations around affordability and free tuition miss a larger truth: that the opacity of our current college-financing systems is a primary driver of inequities in education and society. A Problem of Fit offers a bold, trenchant new argument for an educational reform that is well within rea
Phillip B. Levine is the Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics at Wellesley College, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of five books devoted to statistics, the analysis of social policy, and its effect on individual behavior.
Tom Discenna is Professor of Communication at Oakland University whose work examines issues of academic labor and communicative labor more broadly.