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New Reports Examine Innovative Approaches to Addressing Student Debt and the Shifting Priorities of Private Funding in Higher Education

June 20, 2017

TIAA Institute and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors release “Achieving Success in Postsecondary Education” papers

NEW YORK (June 20, 2017) – As institutions of higher education struggle with increasing costs and decreasing public funding, many students are unable to complete their degrees or are left with unsustainable amounts of debt. The TIAA Institute and the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) today released two reports that examine the student debt landscape in the U.S. as well as trends and innovative approaches in private funding of higher education.

These comprehensive reports provide a detailed analysis of the challenging business trends that universities and colleges encounter and review successful models for financing postsecondary education. The TIAA Institute and RPA aim to advance the conversation about supporting college completion, avoiding the burden of student debt, and improving financial security for all students.

Key findings from the two reports include:

“Is There a Student Loan Crisis? The Facts about Student Debt,” by Sandy Baum

  • There is a positive impact of postsecondary education on employment and earnings.
  • Relatively high-earning households carry a disproportionate amount of student debt.
  • A significant share of the difficulties related to student loan repayment arises from failure to complete degrees and from poor labor market outcomes for some types of degrees/credentials.
  • A system that both prepares and protects people seeking to pursue higher education should be high on the policy agenda.

“Analysis of Trends in Higher Education Philanthropy,” by Amy Holmes

  • Private philanthropy views higher education as a path to economic self-sufficiency, and wants to engage with colleges and universities to help low-income students succeed.
  • Foundations are now more likely to identify their own priorities for initiatives, and then seek higher education institutions to adopt those programs.
  • Private funders have shifted their focus from access to higher education to retention and completion of a degree.

“With these reports, we hope to help donors and policymakers examine how to best support postsecondary students and institutions,” said Melissa Berman, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. “We are proud to work with the TIAA Institute to better understand how college completion and debt affects lifelong financial security.”

“Understanding the trends that dictate philanthropic decisions and finding solutions to student debt repayment are critical objectives for students, administrators and educational institutions,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, head of the TIAA Institute. “We’re honored to have partnered with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to conduct this research so that we may have a better understanding of new priorities in private philanthropy and student finance models.”

Findings from these reports were presented today at the Postsecondary Success, Debt, and Philanthropy’s Role event in New York City.

Click here to view the full reports.


About the TIAA Institute

The TIAA Institute helps advance the ways individuals and institutions plan for financial security and organizational effectiveness. The Institute conducts in-depth research, provides access to a network of thought leaders and enables those it serves to anticipate trends, plan future strategies and maximize opportunities for success.  For more information about the TIAA Institute, visit

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