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Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Public trust served by higher education, according to new booklet

Princeton University has joined the national Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) in publishing a collection of success stories representative of college graduates who have been inspired by their education to make the world a better place through their choices of careers and avocations.

"Take a Closer Look: Colleges and Universities Opening Doors, Changing Lives" explores some of the ways institutions of higher education serve the public good through the opportunities they provide to lower- and middle-income students and through the values they instill.

"In addition to the private goods that accrue to their graduates, colleges and universities also provide public goods that benefit society at large," Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman recently wrote. "None of these social benefits is more important, in my view, than advancing the ideal of equal opportunity by acting as engines of social and economic mobility."

The release of the publication comes at a time of widespread public discussion about tuition costs and the availability of student aid. Yet, as the consortium reports, the number of students receiving aid is rising. Today, 47 percent of students who attend the 31 COFHE colleges and universities receive financial aid, averaging at more than $20,000 per student.

In addition, 30 percent of all enrolled students represent people of color. Equally encouraging is the large number of students who give back to the community during and after their undergraduate career. In fact, the booklet notes, 42 percent of students at these institutions are involved in community service, a trend that continues well into their adult lives.

At Princeton, 55 percent of this year's freshman class received financial aid, with the average award being $29,786. The class is 37 percent students of color. Each year, more than 700 students make weekly visits to 55 service projects in Princeton, Trenton, Philadelphia and greater Mercer County through the University's Student Volunteers Council, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2006-07.

Though the 51 men and women featured in "Take a Closer Look" span in age, background and career achievements and aspirations, all shared a similar college experience. They attended some of the nation's oldest and most prominent colleges and universities; they came from lower- and middle-income families and paid for college through a combination of work and financial aid, most of which came from the institution they attended; and, in their lives and careers, they have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to the service of others.

The Princeton alumni profiled are:

  • Congressman James A. Leach, a 1964 graduate from Iowa who "stands up for the rights of the oppressed";
  • Kavita N. Ramdas, president and chief executive officer of the Global Fund for Women, who earned her master's degree from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1988;
  • Rajiv Vinnakota, the 1993 graduate who helped change America's educational landscape when he co-founded the first urban public charter boarding school in Washington, D.C.; and
  • William D. Zabel, of the class of 1958, who is a leading expert in trust and estate law yet spends most of his time advancing human rights.

For additional information on COFHE and to obtain a copy of “Take a Closer Look,” visit the consortium's Web site.

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