Qualified Low-Income Students Locked Out of Higher Education, Says Report

Qualified Low-Income Students Locked Out of Higher Education, Says Report

WASHINGTON
A key advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Congress says that many low-income students are currently denied access to college and millions more may be locked out of a college education if need-based federal student financial aid programs are not immediately revitalized.
In a special report, Access Denied, the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Aid Assistance says that a finite pool of financial aid resources and skyrocketing growth among college-age students are straining the current financial aid system. If substantial policy changes are not enacted, many low-income students (with family earnings below $25,000) who are academically well prepared will be denied access to higher education.
“By 2015 there will be 1.6 million more 18 to 24 year olds ready to enroll in college, many of whom will be from low-income families. And if we do not make changes in student aid policy now and refocus on need-based aid, academically qualified low-income students may have the doors of opportunity slammed shut,” says Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, committee chairperson and president of the University of Texas-Brownsville.
The report found that the main economic obstacle to financing a college education for low-income students is unmet need, the price of attending college after all aid, including loans, is awarded. On average, the very lowest-income students face $3,200 of unmet need at two-year public institutions and $3,800 at four-year public institutions.
“For many young people the $3,000 price tag might as well be $3 million,” says Charles
Terrell, committee vice chairman and associate dean for student affairs at Boston University Medical Center. “It discourages many from attending college at all, and for others, it means working long hours, borrowing heavily or attending school only part-time. It makes the dream of attending college almost impossible for even the most gifted low-income students.”
The advisory committee is calling on the federal government to:
n Increase funding for need-based aid — particularly, the Pell Grant and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs
n Expand other Title IV student aid programs, including the Perkins Loan, College Work Study, TRIO and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). Each of these programs plays an important role in either decreasing unmet need or preparing students for college.
n Strengthen existing federal, state and institutional partnerships in support of access and need-based student aid, such as the Leveraging Educational Assistance Program (LEAP) 



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