Reveal: Institutions of higher earning

It’s no secret that college is getting more expensive – or that America’s student debt has erupted into a full-on crisis. But it’s not just loans that are putting pressure on Americans seeking an education. As this week’s episode explains, students face a variety of obstacles, from rising tuition rates to hard-line immigration laws.

In our first segment, reporters Neena Satija and Matthew Watkins with our partners at the Texas Tribune take a close look at their state’s public universities. A little over a year ago, administrators tapped Bill McRaven, a former four-star admiral, as chancellor of the University of Texas system. McRaven immediately proposed a series of “quantum leaps” that he promised would put UT’s enormous endowment to good use – and make it “the envy of every system in the nation.” Several huge purchases later (including a land parcel worth more than $215 million), questions still linger about whether students are benefiting from McRaven’s sweeping changes.

Next, Hechinger Report’s Jon Marcus profiles Eddy Medina, a Cornell University student whose financial aid benefits didn’t come close to covering the cost of his tuition. Medina and his family tried everything they could to pay for his education. They depleted savings and sold their possessions; Medina even took a job at SeaWorld. Yet in the end, his story illustrates a troubling trend: Universities are shifting financial aid away from lower-income families like Medina’s and toward wealthier ones.

Students who came to the U.S. illegally face barriers to higher education, too. Although 21 states provide in-state tuition for beneficiaries of DACA (also known as “Dreamers”), others have taken a different approach. Georgia, for example, bars unauthorized students from enrolling at its top three universities. It also charges them non-state tuition at schools they are allowed to attend. APM Reports’ Sasha Aslanian explains how some students and professors are fighting back.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. For more, check out our website and subscribe to our podcast. Photo illustration by Michael I Schiller / Reveal

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