you getting gouged on college?
you come from a relatively low-income family, thereís
a strong chance you are. In fact, you may be subsidizing
the education of a student from an affluent family.
Because many colleges, with limited pots of financial
aid money, are cutting off the students that need the
most help paying for college. Instead, colleges
increasingly are using financial aid money to lure more
affluent students. This is the finding of a study by the
New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank that
used Department of Education data to examine what
hundreds of colleges are charging students of various
finding, of course, is good news for affluent students
from families that havenít been able to save enough to
pay the astronomical cost of college. With costs of many
private colleges around $50,000 a year, and home-state
public universities approaching $25,000, even affluent
families feel poor when trying to figure out how to pay
for college. So doctors, lawyers and a multitude of
highly paid professionals are delighted when there are
grants and other "merit aid" for their
children, who donít fit the model for financial aid.
while skyrocketing college costs have become a burden
for most American families, poor families are really in
trouble, according to Stephen Burd of the New America
Foundation. Students from families with incomes of
$30,000 or less are being required to devote more than
half of their income to pay for educations at hundreds
of colleges, he says.
by other researchers have shown that attending
high-quality colleges can be even more important for
lower-income students than affluent students. But Burd
said that 94 percent of private colleges he examined
charge the lowest-income students more than $10,000.
Thereís a growing trend of charging poor families
$15,000 or $25,000. The median is $17,189 for freshmen.
private colleges have small endowments, so itís
difficult for them to support students with the greatest
need, he said. They may give poor students Pell Grants,
which are federal government grants aimed at helping
low-income students go to college. But then, rather than
devoting the collegeís financial aid dollars to poor
students so the price of college becomes affordable, the
colleges "provide deep discounts to wealthier
students, no matter what their academic record."
a result, low-income students may take on huge debts or
skip a quality college. The maximum Pell Grant is just
said college administrators increasingly regard aiding
affluent students as a crucial move to ensure the
institutionsí survival. During the last five years,
about 60 percent of private colleges have increased the
price they charge the lowest-income freshmen on an
all, itís more profitable for schools to provide five
Ďmerití scholarships of $5,000 each to entice
affluent students who will be able to pay the balance
ó even if they have less-than-stellar grades ó than
it is to provide a single $25,000 grant to a
high-achieving low-income student," Burd said.
trend isnít limited to struggling colleges. Some of
the countryís most prosperous private colleges are
"stingy with aid" for low-income families, he
said. "These institutions tend to use their
financial aid to reel in the top students, as well as
the most affluent."
institutions attract top students with high grades and
high SAT or ACT college entrance exam scores, it lifts
colleges in "best college" rankings published
annually by operations such as U.S. News & World
Report. Since those rankings are used by students trying
to select colleges for their future, high rankings are
coveted by colleges as a marketing tool.
trend of channeling aid to the affluent is less extreme
among public colleges and universities, Burd found. But
"in the face of steep state budget cuts over the
past decades," public colleges are adopting
practices used by private colleges to admit more
affluent students and fewer low-income students.
the past two decades, there has been a fundamental shift
in admissions practices," said Burd. Public
universities are seeking "the best and the
brightest, and those wealthy enough to pay full
freight," so they use aid dollars "to entice
these generally privileged students to their