Rising Costs and Decreased Aid Make College Harder to Afford

College students across the nation are feeling the financial pinch as the cost of attending a state school rises and financial aid packages shrink. Cuts in the federal budget have led to the most serious state budget crises in decades. In response to these state budget cuts, state colleges and universities all over the US will impose steep tuition and fee increases this fall, according to the Washington Post. With financial aid more difficult to obtain because of a change in the way the federal government determines eligibility, hundreds of thousands of students will be forced to find new ways to make up the shortfall, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Many university officials believe that shifting the burden of higher education costs to students will force low- and moderate-income students into community colleges, or out of college altogether, reports the Post. “A lot of students will drop out,” City University of New York (CUNY) President Lev Sviridov told the New York Times. “CUNY estimates – and I think it’s a low estimate – that 60 percent of the students come from households that make $30,000 or less.”

“It’s disheartening for anyone from my background to see these [tuition and fee] increases, because we know how important a higher education is,” said University of Iowa senior Mayrose Wegmann, who is one of eight children in a working-class family headed by a single mother, reports the Post. Wegmann is already more than $20,000 in debt, works over 40 hours a week, and receives the maximum federal Pell grant, according to the Post. “We’re all working harder and harder to pay our way, but we’re not getting a better education,” Wegmann told the Post. “In fact, we’re getting a worse education because the time we have to study is so limited.”

According to the US Census Bureau, the majority of college and university students are women. Women are also far more likely to be part-time, adult, or independent students, and are thus less likely to qualify for and receive what financial aid is available, according to the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

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Washington Post 7/22/03; New York Times 6/26/03; US Census Bureau 2002; Association for the Study of Higher Education 1987; San Francisco Chronicle 7/18/03.

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