Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion

  1. Policies to promote economic stability, asset building, and child development

    This paper makes the case that the pattern low-income families walk into is a present time-oriented or consumption-based welfare system, with attendant incentives and disincentives; in contrast, the pattern higher-income families walk into is future-oriented or asset-based. These two divergent systems do not deliver equitable educational outcomes for children. To ensure that higher education can play an equalizing role in the U.S. economy, the nation needs a better welfare system for the poor, one that builds on the asset-accumulation structures that serve the needs of advantaged families. This new institutional approach would undo the current system of educational advantages for higher-income children over low-income children and, in turn, redress educational inequalities in America. In order to create a level playing field welfare policies are needed that enable low-income families to accumulate assets. In this paper we discuss policies that might help low-income families accumulate assets, including modifications to existing income supports, as well as the development of complementary asset-based institutions.

    Citation

    Lewis, M., Cramer, R., Elliott, W., and Spraque, A. (2013). Policies to promote economic stability, asset building, and child development. Children and Youth Services Review, 36, 15-21.

    Authors

    Lewis, Melinda, Cramer, Reid, Elliott III, William, Sprague, Aleta

    Wealth Transfer Journal Article Year 2013

  2. Saving for Education Improves Outcomes, Evidence Shows

    Citation

    Lewis, M. (2013, July 3). Saving for Education Improves Outcomes, Evidence Shows. Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Authors

    Lewis, Melinda

    Children's Savings Account Op-Ed Year 2013

  3. Status Quo: Divergent Financial Aid Systems Yield Disparate Outcomes

    The financial aid system for low-income students mostly revolves around extending availability of student debt, while higher-income students benefit from asset-based investments, largely administered through the tax code. The result of this divide is seen in poorer educational outcomes for disadvantaged students and an erosion of the equalizing effects of higher education. Policy changes—in higher education and financing, taxation and public assistance, financial aid, and asset accumulation—can reset these respective paths, bringing greater equity and improved educational outcomes, particularly for currently-disadvantaged students.

    Related items: Briefs

    Student Loan Debt Threatens Household Balance Sheets High-Dollar Student Debt May Compromise Educational Outcomes Before College: Building Expectations and Facilitating Achievement Executive Summary

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Infographics

    Today: Two Paths To Higher Ed Student Loan Debt: Consequences Tomorrow . . . And For Years to Come Reports

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Unequal Outcomes: Student Loan Effects on Young Adults’ Net Worth Accumulation

    Read Publication

    Authors

    Elliott III, William, Lewis, Melinda

    College Debt Brief Year 2013

  4. Student Loan Debt Threatens Household Balance Sheets

    The purpose of higher education is, in large part, to position students for later economic success. While those with college degrees command higher lifetime salaries than less-educated Americans, there is reason to worry that beginning adulthood burdened with significant loan balances may compromise household economic security by tilting balance sheets decidedly toward liabilities.

    About 18 percent of households in our sample have outstanding student debt. The average family in 2007 had about $26,018 in student debt, and this outstanding student debt can have a negative effect on household net worth. Specifically, median 2009 net worth for a household with no outstanding student debt is nearly three times higher than for a household with outstanding student debt.

    The recession seemed to hit households with student debt harder than those without such liabilities. The change in net worth between 2007 and 2009 represents a higher percentage of total 2009 net worth for households with outstanding student debt than it does for households with no outstanding student debt.

    A hypothetical household with exactly median 2007 net worth ($128,828) with outstanding student loans is associated with a loss of about 54% in 2009 net worth compared with a household with similar net worth but no student debt.

    The increasing student debt burden on households may not be equally shared at different wealth levels. While households at the 15th percentile of net worth with outstanding student debt lost less net worth than similar households at the 50th percentile from 2007 to 2009, the loss for households at the 15th percentile represents 285% of their 2009 net worth but only 54% for households at the 50th percentile.

    College graduation is not adequate protection against this loss of net worth. Living in a household with a four-year college graduate with outstanding student debt is associated with a net worth loss of $185,995.90 (about 63% less) compared with living in a household with a four-year college graduate with no outstanding debt.

    Others have found that an average student debt burden for a dual-headed household with bachelors’ degrees from four-year universities leads to a lifetime wealth loss of nearly $208,000.1 Over time, then, students with outstanding student debt make up some of the wealth loss, likely through leveraging their increased human capital into earnings potential. However, it appears that they still end up far behind their peers without student debt.

    Read the brief Related items: Briefs

    Status Quo: Divergent Financial Aid Systems Yield Disparate Outcomes High-Dollar Student Debt May Compromise Educational Outcomes Before College: Building Expectations and Facilitating Achievement Executive Summary

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Infographics

    Today: Two Paths To Higher Ed Student Loan Debt: Consequences Tomorrow . . . And For Years to Come Reports

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Unequal Outcomes: Student Loan Effects on Young Adults’ Net Worth Accumulation

    Read Publication

    Authors

    Elliott III, William, Lewis, Melinda

    College Debt Brief Year 2013

  5. Student Loans are Widening the Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity

    Higher education plays a critical role in the U.S. economy, creating a ladder of economic opportunity for American children, especially for those in poverty. However, despite our collective belief in an American dream of equitable opportunities for all, higher education today increasingly reinforces patterns of relative privilege, particularly as students rely more and more on student loans to finance college access. As borrowing reduces the return on a college degree—by failing to support strong educational attainment and by compromising post-graduation financial security— the inequity of our financial aid system is laid bare. By investing in student borrowing to the exclusion of asset-based approaches with the potential to deliver superior outcomes, we jeopardize the legitimacy of the American dream.

    Reimagining financial aid to include asset accumulation for those currently disadvantaged has the potential to meet one of our most critical challenges: equipping enough students to succeed in college education to power future societal economic prosperity, at a cost individual students and our collective economy can afford. This report challenges current assumptions about the innocent nature of student loans and proposes asset-based complements that could transform higher education into an institution of equitable opportunity and a foundation of a revitalized America.

    Related items: Briefs

    Student Loan Debt Threatens Household Balance Sheets Status Quo: Divergent Financial Aid Systems Yield Disparate Outcomes High-Dollar Student Debt May Compromise Educational Outcomes Before College: Building Expectations and Facilitating Achievement Executive Summary

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Infographics

    Today: Two Paths To Higher Ed Student Loan Debt: Consequences Tomorrow . . . And For Years to Come Reports

    The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Unequal Outcomes: Student Loan Effects on Young Adults’ Net Worth Accumulation

    Read Publication

    Citation

    Elliott, W. and Lewis, M. (2013). Are student loans widening the wealth gap in America? It’s a question of equity. Lawrence, KS: Assets and Education Initiative (AEDI).

    Authors

    Elliott III, William, Lewis, Melinda

    College Debt Report Year 2013

  6. The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough To Say, "Students Will Eventually Recover"

    According to Shapiro, the American Dream “is the promise that those who work equally hard will reap roughly equal rewards” (Shapiro, 2004, p. 87); that is, the American Dream holds that this country is a meritocracy where effort and ability are the primary determinants of success. Institutions provide the economic conditions that make it possible for people to believe that their hard work and ability will determine their success or failure. This task is facilitated by Americans’ strong desire to feel as though their destiny can be controlled and that institutions will ‘echo’ their own contributions, rather than work against them.1 Primed to look for evidence of this ‘effort plus ability equals outcomes’ equation, Americans cling to this ideal, even as it recedes in reality for many. There is no evidence that Americans today are less capable or less committed than in previous generations, in the aggregate. Instead, particularly in today’s highly specialized, technology driven, global world, the upward mobility that animates the American Dream is only possible if effort and ability are combined with institutional might.

    Related items: Briefs

    Student Loan Debt Threatens Household Balance Sheets Status Quo: Divergent Financial Aid Systems Yield Disparate Outcomes High-Dollar Student Debt May Compromise Educational Outcomes Before College: Building Expectations and Facilitating Achievement Executive Summary

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity Infographics

    Today: Two Paths To Higher Ed Student Loan Debt: Consequences Tomorrow . . . And For Years to Come Reports

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Unequal Outcomes: Student Loan Effects on Young Adults’ Net Worth Accumulation

    Read Publication

    Authors

    Elliott III, William, Lewis, Melinda

    College Debt Executive Summary Year 2013

  7. Today: Two Paths To Higher Ed

    Higher education plays a critical role in the U.S. economy, creating a ladder of economic opportunity for American children, especially for those in poverty. However, despite our collective belief in an American dream of equitable opportunities for all, higher education today increasingly reinforces patterns of relative privilege, particularly as students rely more and more on student loans to finance college access. As borrowing reduces the return on a college degree— by failing to support strong educational attainment and by compromising post-graduation financial security—the inequity of our financial aid system is laid bare. By supporting and investing in asset-based savings approaches for all U.S. children, we have the potential to deliver superior outcomes and strengthen the American dream.

    Related items: Briefs

    Student Loan Debt Threatens Household Balance Sheets Status Quo: Divergent Financial Aid Systems Yield Disparate Outcomes High-Dollar Student Debt May Compromise Educational Outcomes Before College: Building Expectations and Facilitating Achievement Executive Summary

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Infographics

    Student Loan Debt: Consequences Tomorrow . . . And For Years to Come Reports

    Student Loans are Widening The Wealth Gap: Time to Focus on Equity The Student Loan Problem in America: It is Not Enough to Say, “Students Will Eventually Recover” Unequal Outcomes: Student Loan Effects on Young Adults’ Net Worth Accumulation

    Read Publication

    Citation

    Elliott, W. and Lewis, M. (2013). Are student loans widening the wealth gap in America? It’s a question of equity. Lawrence, KS: Assets and Education Initiative (AEDI).

    Authors

    Elliott III, William, Lewis, Melinda

    College Debt Infographic Year 2013