Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Unmet Financial Need for Undergraduate Students

From the 2004 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study we have calculated unmet financial need for undergraduate students for the 2003-04 academic year. Unmet financial need is cost of attendance less expected family contribution less all financial aid received (grants, loans, work-study and other financial aid).

For all undergraduates in the U.S. total unmet need was $31.9 billion.
  • Sectors: public 4-year: $8.6 billion; public 2-year: $9.8 billion; private 4-year: $8.1 billion; private less than 4-year: $0.4 billion; proprietary: $5.1 billion
  • Status: dependent: $15.0 billion; independent: $16.9 billion
  • Income quartile: bottom: $17.3 billion; second: $10.3 billion; third: $4.3 billion; top: $0
  • States: California: $4.6 billion; Connecticut: $0.5 billion; Georgia: $0.9 billion; Illinois: $1.3 billion; Indiana: $0.5 billion; Minnesota: $0.4 billion; Nebraska: $0.05 billion; New York: $2.8 billion
Unmet financial need appears to be growing. College costs are rising (rapidly), family incomes are stagnant, the Pell Grant has been flat for too long, and loan limits have been stuck at ancient levels during several reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act. Over the last 25 years the federal government has lost its way in financial aid, most states have stuck their heads in the sand over the issue, and far too many institutions have concluded that if the federal and state governments no longer care about college affordability that they don't have to either.

The predictable result of large and growing unmet financial need is that the financial barriers to higher education opportunity that financial aid was created to remove are now re-emerging. Student enrollment decisions of access, choice and completion are increasingly limited by these financial barriers to higher education. And so we see students from low and lower-middle income families increasingly concentrated in the lowest priced institutions--our community colleges, and students from the highest income families increasingly concentrated in our elite public and private colleges and universities. If this isn't class warfare then I don't know what is.


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