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March 20, 2014

Smith College in Massachusetts is an all women's liberal arts school (Wikimedia Commons).

What’s it like to run the institutions that are on the front lines of the debate we're having in this country over higher education and its merits?

Kathleen McCartney, who  just took over as the president of Smith College a little less than six months ago, says cost is a big part of her thinking.

She said one of her main focuses is making a college education affordable for low-income students. McCartney comes from a middle-class family and is the oldest of five children.  She attended Tufts University because of generous financial aid, and says the country needs to make sure students from a background like hers can go to the best schools, no matter the cost.

“We have students who are going to be enrolling at Smith next year who went to charter schools, just from the lowest of low families,” said McCartney. “So we’re doing as much outreach as we can, and I know that other colleges are doing the same.”


McCartney said one thing students and families need to do is think past the “sticker price” of a college education.

"I think we have to educate families, because some colleges are not a good bargain," said McCartney.  "What parents and students need to do is find things out like ‘How much debt does the average student leave this college with?'"

This interview originally aired on Marketplace Morning Report.

confronting cost, increasing access and success

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