Well, Brown University has joined the list of those elite colleges—like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Dartmouth—in “reducing” tuition. Students whose parents earn less than $60,000 annually will have free tuition and those whose parents earn less than $100,000 will receive grants (rather than loans). These 5 Universities, btw, have a combined endowment of $57 billion. And this is in addition to the real estate, equipment, publishing contracts, government grants, and whatever else they own. And so I want to ask 2 simple questions:
1. How many students will this help? How many current students at Brown, for example, have parents earning under $60,000? Is there anyone from Brown who’d like to respond? I suspect the answer would be zero or at least very close to that. If I’m wrong, Brown University, please correct me.
2. How much money will these schools be “giving up”?
The media are reporting these seemingly grand gestures but they don’t mention any specific numbers or amounts.
This is very similar to the advertisements that try to get you to buy their product by saying they’ll donate a portion of the purchase price to breast cancer research or to help abandoned dogs and cats. But, how much will be given to these causes is never spelled out—at least not in the ads I’ve seen. And so I’d like to know and to see in the ad, exactly how much money will be given to charity. Further, I would expect that a responsible charity would demand that an advertiser list the exact amount it will donate. But, then, I suspect, the charity would receive nothing. A sad situation.
Shouldn’t the organizations concerned with accuracy in advertisements and communication generally (like NCA and ICA, for example) be concerned with this kind of deceptive advertising—and I think it’s deceptive not because it makes any false claims but because it is designed to mislead people into believing that the amount to be denoted is significant when it likely isn’t (though I may be just overly negative here). Publishing principles for ethical communication—as NCA and ICA do—is a step in the right direction but certainly not sufficient for the premier organizations in communication. NCA and ICA and related organizations would serve a valuable service by pointing out such deceptions and raising public awareness.