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Opportunity Lost: Net Price & Equity at Flagship Universities

The definition of public flagship universities differ by state, but they typically refer to the first or most prominent public university, the one that receives the most state support, or the one with the highest research profile. There is a huge opportunity for America’s public flagship institutions to offer an affordable pathway to a high-quality bachelor’s degree. Yet, as researchers Konrad Mugglestone, Kim Dancy, and Mamie Voight learned, the net price at these institutions are failing to meet the affordability benchmark for college students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Their analysis for the Institute for Higher Education Policy, outlined in Opportunity Lost: Net Price and Equity at Public Flagship Institutions, highlights that only six out of 50 flagship institutions are affordable for students who are not from high-income backgrounds. Yet, the top institutions that are also affordable, in places like Virginia and Michigan, don’t enroll many low-income students.

Part of the problem is that since 2000, the share of per student college costs covered by states has declined from 71 percent to 54 percent. To make these flagship universities more affordable for more students, the researchers make five policy recommendations, focused on states appropriating more money and then targeting that money to high need students.