- States are considering proposed cuts to aid for students attending college, including programs intended to help middle-class families pay for college tuition and expenses, as some argue middle class aid takes funds from the most needy college applicants, according to Inside Higher Ed.
- California Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed discontinuing the Middle Class Scholarship Program, which is based on family income levels and was started in 2014-2015, though other legislators have argued that the program is often a “financial lifeline” to families slightly above the line for low-income aid.
- Though many states have recovered from the effects of the Great Recession, legislators are still cautious in constructing their budgets in case of future economic turmoil. Many legislators are approaching student aid cuts by trying to determine whether it is better to fund based on need or merit.
Legislators argue that tighter budgets demand funding go where the need is greatest, but it is important to note that middle-class wages have not necessarily kept pace with ballooning tuition costs. Enrollment struggles and online learning disruption has come at a time whe tuition has also risen amid continued divestment at the state and federal level. A middle-class income may not be an accurate barometer of whether a family could comfortably afford a college education, or even afford one at all.
State and local governments also cannot count on federal funding to make the difference for middle-class or vulnerable families, as President Donald Trump’s budget indicates that some cuts are likely forthcoming, including the loss of the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. The cuts will likely exacerbate the issues facing low-income and middle-class families with college affordability challenges.
Still, the problem is also likely to grow if colleges and universities cannot find ways to replace the diminishing revenue streams being caused by the issues of declining enrollment and lost tuition. We are in a period of experimentation, as colleges and universities take new approaches to find ways to replace the money they have lost. Without successful ventures, tuition is likely only to grow, but now with less financial aid available for families to subsidize the cost.