Martin Center President Testifies Before U.S. Senate Committee


Dr. Jenna A. Robinson, president of The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, provided testimony on college affordability to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Tuesday, February 6. She spoke to the committee about the effects of federal student aid on the cost of higher education. Representatives from the Urban Institute, Lumina Foundation, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, and a community college also provided testimony to the committee.

During her testimony, Robinson presented empirical research that found a positive relationship between increases in federal student aid subsidies and increases in tuition. Yet the relationship, although strongly supported by many recent studies, is not without nuance. As Robinson told the committee, “Different types of aid affect tuition prices differently.” Evidence demonstrates that loans contribute to tuition increases more than grants, for example.

In her statement, Robinson examined the effects of federal student aid by institution. Easy availability of federal loans and grants has had a “more pronounced” effect at “expensive schools, such as private four-year institutions, than at more affordable ones,” said Robinson. She also told the committee that increases in federal student aid have encouraged more dramatic tuition hikes at for-profit institutions than at public and private nonprofit schools.

In December 2017, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal released a paper authored by Robinson on the effects of federal subsidies on the price of higher education in America. The paper, “The Bennett Hypothesis Turns 30,” merges findings from 25 empirical studies on Reagan-era Education Secretary William J. Bennett’s theory that large amounts of federal student aid drive up the cost of tuition and proposes policy recommendations designed to stem the growth of university tuition and fees.

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The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal is dedicated to the improvement of higher education in North Carolina and the nation.