Public universities giving wealthy more financial aid at expense of poor students

Posted on September 12th, 2013

A new investigation from ProPublica has found that public colleges and universities are increasingly giving less financial aid to poor students in favor of wealthier ones. Even through the economic recession, public schools continued to favor high-income students in favor of students who need the money the most.

The chart below shows that from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of financial aid grants — as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts — to students in the lowest quartile of family income. Unlike student loans, grants do not have to be repaid, making them essential for many low-income students to attend college.

Financial Aid Low Income Students

Many low-income students apply to public colleges and universities because they offer a cheaper option than private schools and are often closer to home. But as tuition has risen and schools are offering poorer students a smaller portion of their aid, low-income students “are often forced to decide not just which college to attend but whether they can afford to attend college at all.”

“The most needy students are getting squeezed out,” said Charles Reed, a former chancellor of the California State University system and of the State University System of Florida. “Need-based aid is extremely important to these students and their parents.”

Additionally, according to ProPublica, public universities are increasingly using financial aid to further their own goals, such as enrolling wealthy students who will bring revenue or boost their spots in college rankings. This is a technique that has been long used by private colleges as well. Colleges have an incentive to offer money to students that will boost their average SAT scores or average GPAs for incoming freshmen, for example, because these factors are taken into account in rankings such as the famous U.S. News & World Report’s list of America’s best colleges, released Wednesday.

These findings are quite discouraging. One would hope that colleges would offer the most financial aid to students who need it the most, but it’s clear other motivations may be at play. If you think your family can’t afford college, don’t give up. There are many schools that offer merit aid in addition to need-based aid and provide a quality education at an affordable price.

We can help you set up a plan to pay for college and save you time, money, and stress throughout the financial aid process. If you’re interesting in learning more, feel free to contact us or call us at 1-888-234-3907 for a free consultation.

Category: Financial Aid

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