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A graduating student wears a money lei on June 14, in Pasadena, California. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Most middle-class parents view paying for college as a moral obligation, not just a budgetary challenge, according to new research by New York University associate professor Caitlin Zaloom, the New York Times reports.

Driving the news: Even when money isn't a problem, Operation Varsity Blues illustrates that some parents will go to great, possibly illegal lengths to secure the "right" school for their children. Wealthy parents — dentistry professors, doctors, executives, actors and lawyers — funded what the DOJ has called the biggest admissions scam in U.S. history, to secure spots for their kids at the University of Texas, Yale, Georgetown and other schools.

What they found: Zaloom argues that paying for college complicates how parents save for their own futures and how they pay for their children's development. Coming up with the cash to pay for college can deplete parents' retirement funds and drop them out of the middle class.

  • Through 160 interviews with college students and their parents over 7 years, Zaloom found that parents and their children will "prioritize the 'right' school — and then find ways to meet the cost, no matter what it takes," per the NYT.
  • Zaloom argues that this pressure to get kids into college has "fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class" in the U.S.
  • The research also resulted in the notion of "social speculation," wherein parents wager money today, betting their children's education will secure them a future space in the middle class.

The big picture: The cost of going to public or private school has been ratcheting up for decades. Zaloom writes in the NYT that the average yearly cost of attending an American university totals $50,000, while less than 5% of Americans have college savings accounts. Meanwhile, the Fed says student loans are smothering the housing market and more Democratic 2020 candidates are campaigning on the promise of tuition-free college.

Go deeper: How paying for college is changing middle-class life

Go deeper

Biden to tap telecom trio for NTIA, FCC posts

Jessica Rosenworcel. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to name Alan Davidson as head of the telecom arm of the Commerce Department, Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner at the FCC, according to a person familiar with the process.

Why it matters: Internet availability and affordability has been a key policy priority for the White House, but the administration lagged in tapping people for the agency posts that oversee the issues.

25 mins ago - Technology

Facebook seeks fountain of youth

Data: Piper Sandler Taking Stock With Teens Study; Chart: Axios Visuals

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday said that the company is pivoting its strategy to focus on young adults, following reports that teens have fled its apps.

Why it matters: A series of stories based on leaked whistleblower documents suggest the company sees the aging of its user base as an existential threat to its business.

Too big to cover alone: Newsrooms team up

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

News outlets are increasingly willing to work together on big, multifaceted stories — including this week's reporting on leaked documents from a Facebook whistleblower.

Why it matters: Collaborative efforts help bring more resources to bear on complex stories, some of which require a global reporting effort. But they require high degrees of coordination, and competition can sometimes get in the way.