Report: 95% of colleges out of reach for low-income students

Dive Brief:

  • A recent report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy found more than 95% of colleges are unaffordable for low-income students. 
  • Researchers analyzed the net price of college, after expected grant aid for different income levels to determine affordability, though the authors noted that pinning down affordability is a difficult task, since the true cost of attendance is often not posted.
  • The report calls for strengthening of the federal Pell grant program and increased state investment in financial aid programs, and for institutions with sizable wealth to redirect some of those funds to assist with the cost of college.

Dive Insight:

Most college leaders would point to significant discounting rates as evidence that higher education is doing as much as possible to help promote affordability while maintaining the quality of the product. And while there has been a tremendous amount of scrutiny over endowments and what colleges do with them lately, studies have found that a high percentage of endowment monies go to professors' and researchers' salaries. In some cases, money is given specifically by donors to fund a particular faculty chair, but in all cases, leaders often recognize it is even more imperative for institutions to attract and retain top talent in the professorate than it is to attract and retain students.

Still, the Obama administration made access to college for all a top priority, and all economic projections indicate that simply having a high school diploma is no longer sufficient to build a career. And even with financial aid, cost of living is turning out to be the top barrier to access for low-income students, and institutions and cities must find ways to partner to create greater affordability in this realm as well. Schools like Miles College in Birmingham and the University of Dayton in Ohio are buying up the residential areas surrounding their schools to provide affordable off-campus living facilities for students, a model that other institutions with the means to do so might consider.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation
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