UK universities should be allowed to charge higher tuition fees to students from affluent families in order to subsidise the costs incurred by those from poorer backgrounds, according to a US university president and higher education economics expert.
Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University in Illinois, said that it was reasonable to charge students a fee that more accurately reflects the costs that a university incurs during their time at the institution, particularly if their parents “are hedge fund operators and are incredibly affluent”.
Defending the fees charged by private colleges, Professor Schapiro said that about 50 US institutions, including his own, now had the resources and the will to “completely break the link between ability to pay and being admitted”, by means-testing those who should pay tuition fees in full, and those who should receive financial support.
“A lot of places, in an effort to be affordable, just don’t generate the revenues to support a high-quality education, and nobody wants that,” he said.
“At Northwestern, if you are brilliant enough to get in but you can afford nothing, you pay nothing. About half of our students pay less than half of the ‘sticker price’, and about a third of those pay pretty much nothing – that includes room and board.”
Professor Schapiro was in the UK to meet with Northwestern alumni. A previous visit, in 2011, came shortly after J. Michael Bailey, a psychology professor at the university, made headlines for including a “live sex show” in an extracurricular theoretical discussion of the female orgasm.
Speaking on his latest visit, Professor Schapiro called the incident one of the most challenging of his five years at the institution.
“It put us big time in the news for a week or two,” he said. “[Professor Bailey] still teaches graduate students, and that course on human sexuality is still offered in the psychology department”, although he said that it is now taught by a different faculty member.
“It is no longer as highly enrolled as it was when you had demonstrations and stuff,” he added.