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Robert B. Archibald

Robert B. Archibald is Chancellor Professor of Economics at the College of William and Mary. He was born in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. At age two he tagged along with his family as they moved to Oklahoma, and at age ten he accompanied them to Arizona. He was graduated from the University of Arizona in 1968. After serving in the Army in Vietnam, he attended graduate school at Purdue University. He finished his doctoral work as a Baker-Weeks Fellow at the Brookings Institution in 1974. His first job was as an economist in the Research Division of the Office of Prices and Living Conditions at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1976 he took a position in the economics department of the College of William and Mary. At various times at William and Mary he has served as the chair of the economics department, director of the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, interim dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, president of the Faculty Assembly, and faculty representative on the Board of Visitors, the school's governing board. Professor Archibald is married and has two adult children.Professor Archibald's current research focuses on the economics of higher education. His first book, Redesigning the Financial Aid System: Why Colleges and Universities Should Switch Roles with the Federal Government, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2002. In the last 10 years he and his colleague David Feldman have engaged in a long and fruitful collaboration. Together Professors Archibald and Feldman have published a number of research papers, policy analyses, and opinion articles on higher education issues. Their current book, Why Does College Cost So Much? published by Oxford University Press summarizes the findings of this research.Unlike much of the work on higher education economics, Why Does College Cost So Much? focuses on factors higher education shares with other industries rather than suggesting that colleges and universities are somehow special or different. This explanation shows that economy-wide factors are largely responsible for what has happened to college costs and prices since World War II. It leaves little room for the dysfunctional behaviors at colleges and universities often highlighted in other accounts of rising higher education costs. We designed Why Does College Cost So Much? for a general audience. The issues involved are too important for us to limit our discussion to academics specializing in higher education finance. Policy makers at the national, state, and institutional level must understand the forces driving up college costs and prices. And parents and students need to understand these forces as well. College costs are an important issue. We hope our analysis helps people understand what is going on.

The Best 2 Books on Robert B. Archibald

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Why Does College Cost So Much?

Much of what is written about colleges and universities ties rapidly rising tuition to dysfunctional behavior in the academy. Common targets of dysfunction include prestige games among universities, gold plated amenities, and bloated administration. This book offers a different view. To explain rising college cost, the authors place the higher education industry firmly within the larger economic history of the United States. The trajectory of college cost is similar to cost behavior in many other industries, and this is no coincidence. Higher education is a personal service that relies on highly educated labor. A technological trio of broad economic forces has come together in the last thirty years to cause higher education costs, and costs in many other industries, to rise much more rapidly than the inflation rate. The main culprit is economic growth itself.

This finding does not mean that all is well in American higher education. A college education has become less reachable to a broad swathe of the American public at the same time that the market demand for highly educated people has soared. This affordability problem has deep roots. The authors explore how cost pressure, the changing wage structure of the US economy, and the complexity of financial aid policy combine to reduce access to higher education below what we need in the 21st century labor market.

This book is a call to calm the rhetoric of blame and to instead find policies that will increase access to higher education while preserving the quality of our colleges and universities.
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image Robert B. Archibald

Redesigning the Financial Aid System: Why Colleges and Universities Should Switch Roles with the Federal Government

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, students and their families find it increasingly difficult to navigate the financial aid maze. In Redesigning the Financial Aid System, economist Robert Archibald examines the history of the system and its current flaws, and he makes a radical proposal for changing the structure of the system.

Archibald argues that one of the problems with the current model―in which universities are responsible for the majority of grants while the federal government provides student loans―is that a student cannot know the final price of attending a given institution until after he or she has applied, been accepted, and received a financial aid offer. As a result, students remain largely uninformed about the cost of their college educations until very late in the decision-making process and so have difficulty making a timely choice. In addition, financial aid information is kept private, creating confusion over the price of a college education and the role of financial aid.

Under Archibald's proposed reforms, the federal government would assess a student's financial need and provide need-based grants, while institutions would be responsible for guaranteeing student loans. Not only would this new system demystify financial aid and allow students to be better informed about the cost of college earlier in the process, but it would greatly simplify the application procedure and prevent financial aid allocation from contributing to the problem of rising tuition costs. Archibald's clear explanation of the current system―its impact, strengths, and weaknesses―as well as his plans for reform, will be of interest to educators, administrators, students, and parents.

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