Tuition has risen in every higher education sector, from campus-based non-profit private and public universities to for-profit online universities and trade schools. Additional government and institutional aid has accompanied the tuition increase, but for some it’s still not enough.
Public four-year colleges have experienced the highest tuition spikes with an average 7.9% increase. Students at these public colleges are paying on average nearly $16,000 for tuition, room and board. And while the government has dramatically increased available aid, the amount students receive is typically still unable to keep pace with the rising cost of tuition. Although aid packages are larger now then in recent years, financial aid is still often incapable of matching tuition costs.
Many young and adult students are outraged. Brittany Guerra, a high school senior from Maryland, a straight ‘A’ student who has undertaken a challenging course track through her high school years is one of these students. In a recent interview with NPR, Guerra noted that it often seems that some student’s hard work and good grades “don’t count when it comes to paying for college.” Although Guerra is one of the many students sure to receive scholarships or grants for their high school efforts, she says she can’t rely on the aid she receives to pay for all of her tuition. Instead, she’s trying to be “realistic-” a problem it seems that many students are facing. Instead of pursuing her dreams to attend a prominent four-year college or one of her “reach schools,” Guerra will likely be attending a community college due to affordability.
Additional aid aside, the problem for many students is that they are stuck in the middle. Students who come from families that earn $50,000 or more are paying the full tuition increase and are ineligible for many financial aid opportunities. Guerra and many of her fellow students are in this predicament. Parents of the high school seniors say they are being “priced out of a college education.” Most of the families at Wheaton High are “too wealthy to qualify for grants,” but “too poor to keep up with runaway college costs.”
Jeslany Cabrera, another high school senior, feels as though she’s “worked too hard to give up on her dream school- a private woman’s college with a sticker price of $30,000.” The question becomes, then, how will she fund the $30,000 education. Cabrera says that she’ll rely on loans and help from her family. But will even that be enough?
Sandy Baum, a co-author of the annual “Trends in College Pricing” report advises students and families to start saving early and plan ahead. Research financial aid opportunities carefully and thoroughly, she says, “you can’t do this at the last minute in any reasonable way.”
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