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Top Universities Giving Too Little Aid To Needy

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A number of the country’s top public universities are giving millions in financial aid to students from relatively wealthy families, while those from truly needy backgrounds are not receiving enough assistance, says a new report. Examining a recent four-year period, the report, called “Opportunity Adrift”, discovered that schools give as much financial aid to students whose parents earn more than $80,000 annually as they do to those whose parents earn less than $54,000 per year.

The report suggest that universities have sought to recruit high-achieving students who can help them climb in national rankings, at the expense of their mission to educate their states’ own population. As a result, diversity has suffered.

Financial aid from public universities has become increasingly essential for low-income students, as the cost of education has risen exponentially in the last 30 years. When the federal Pell Grant was first introduced three decades ago, it covered most of the cost of attending a four-year college, including tuition, room and board. Today it covers less than a third. Without adequate assistance from the university, a low-income student is faced with a bill amounting to 70% of the total cost – an insurmountable obstacle to a first-rate education.

In response to the new numbers, Kati Haycock, the president of Education Trust, which conducted the study, has said:

It’s almost as if some of America’s best public colleges have forgotten that they are, in fact, public.

She added that public four-year institutions have a lot of latitude in distributing financial aid and can favor the neediest students if they chose to.

Are you facing an expected family contribution that far outstrips your family’s ability to pay? Here are some ideas for funding your college education when federal and university support still aren’t enough:

  • Take full advantage of scholarships — any and all that you may qualify for. Check out our section on college scholarships for more information on finding, applying for and winning scholarships.
  • Complete your FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) early. Your eligibility for federal, state and university financial aid depends on your FAFSA. The earlier you complete it, the better your chances of receiving the maximum reward (before resources have been tapped out.) Some private scholarships even ask for your FAFSA report, so you definitely don’t wan to leave it ’til the last minutes. For more information, check on some of my recent posts on the FAFSA application.
  • Get creative. Sometimes even dotting all your Is and crossing all your Ts isn’t enough. There still is too little money for too much tuition. That’s when it’s time to get creative. Check out my series on creative ways to pay for college to get some ideas.

Let me hear what you think about this new study? Should colleges be focusing more of their financial aid budgets on the neediest students? Or do upper middle class students deserve the assistance just as much? How would you allocate the resources?

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