Catholic colleges increasingly out of reach for poor students
One of the main tenants of Roman Catholicism is to help the poor, but a new study finds Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. are doing a poor job.
The New America Foundation found that five of the 10 most expensive private universities for low-income students, and 10 of the top 28, are Catholic.
This is a disproportionally high number and equally surprising given the egalitarian missions of these colleges.
Catholic college prices exceeding students’ income
In general, families who receive Pell Grants earn $30,000 a year or less. And some of these colleges are charging these students a net price that is equal to two-thirds or more of their families’ entire annual incomes.
Catholic University in Washington charges the highest net price in America for low-income students of any college, at a cost of $30,770 per year.
Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia’s net price isn’t far behind at $30,503, and Saint Louis University, the University of Dayton, and Loyola University Maryland all charge these students an average of over $20,000 per year
Poor students can’t afford Catholic colleges
Given their high net prices, it’s no surprise that private Catholic colleges are increasingly out of reach for the poor.
Among these colleges with the highest net prices, only between 13 and 15 percent of the students they enroll come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for Pell grants.
And many advocates for low-income students have grown increasingly concerned that these colleges are keeping poor students out.
As Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for low-income students puts it,
It’s disturbing that institutions give money in these very difficult times to students who don’t need it and don’t focus their resources on those who absolutely need it the most.
Colleges hypocritical in not helping poor students
Luckily, low-income students seeking an affordable Catholic education still have a few options.
According to the report, five other Catholic colleges and universities are among the 10 private colleges at the other end of the spectrum, offering a lower net price and enrolling comparatively high proportions of Pell students.
This includes Saint Thomas University in Miami, which has an average net price of $8,072 for its lowest-income students, who make up more than half of its enrollment.
Other Catholic colleges with high proportions of low-income students and low net prices include Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Calumet College of Saint Joseph in Indiana, Holy Names University in Oakland, and Saint Francis College in Brooklyn.
If it’s possible for these colleges to provide an affordable education to low-income students, there’s really no reason those expensive colleges can’t–especially since many of them, have much larger endowments.
Saint Louis University, for example, has a an endowment of $956 million. The University of Dayton’s is $442 million; Catholic University’s is $264 million, and Saint Joseph’s is $193 million.
Yet by providing little help to the poor they say they wish to help, these rich (and stingy) colleges make it harder for low-income students to afford college without taking out significant student loans.
Paying for college on a budget
As colleges increase their prices and financial aid lags behind, many private (and public) colleges, Catholic or not, will continue to be out of reach for low-income students.
Luckily, there are still ways for students of all economic backgrounds to get a quality college education without taking on significant student debt.