National College Access Network

Shutting Low-Income Students Out of Public Four-Year Higher Education

Posted on May 28, 2018

Download NCAN’s new white paper showing that 75 percent of four-year public institutions are unaffordable for the average Pell Grant recipient living on campus and receiving average amounts of federal, state, and institutional grant aid, taking out average amounts of federal student loans, and contributing reasonable work wages to their post-secondary education.

It will come as no surprise to you to hear that college affordability is a major problem for students. You have told us repeatedly about the students you serve who lack affordable postsecondary pathways. Students who are academically qualified, motivated, and have achieved the milestones that should have put them onto a college campus are too often derailed by tuition bills that they and their families cannot pay – even with the help of financial aid.

Today, NCAN released “Shutting Low-Income Students Out of Public Four-Year Higher Education,” a white paper that shines more light on postsecondary “unaffordability.” The results are disheartening: We find that 75 percent of four-year public institutions are unaffordable for the average Pell Grant recipient living on campus and receiving average amounts of federal, state, and institutional grant aid, taking out average amounts of federal student loans, and contributing reasonable work to their postsecondary education.

The 25 percent of affordable campuses represent 139 institutions nationwide and in Puerto Rico. Thirty-four states have three or fewer affordable four-year public institutions; 17 have none. Geographic limitations often plague students who cannot feasibly get to an institution, even if they can afford it.

The white paper also considers students living on campus without contributing summer work wages and those living off campus who are and are not contributing those wages. The results are even less optimistic. In fact, for students living on or off campus who do not contribute summer work wages to their post-secondary education (which many students may not be able to do for a variety of reasons), just 3 percent of four-year public institutions nationwide are affordable.

We encourage you to read this white paper and to share it widely. It includes counts of affordable institutions by state and displays the affordability gap of each four-year public institution in our data set. The public and policymakers at all levels need to know that this lack of affordability has a profound impact on students’ options and pathways. Although there are two- and four-year pathways, student completion is higher at the latter. Students need solutions that will help to fulfill four-year public institutions’ dual mission: providing a high-quality education for individual students and supplying an educated citizenry to our society.

http://www.collegeaccess.org/affordability


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