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Over Half of All College Students Take Federal Aid


When parents complain about the high cost of college tuition, college admissions officers often respond by pointing out that few students pay the full sticker price, due to scholarships and federal aid programs. According to the Department of Education, in the 2011-12 school year 57 percent of students relied on some form of federal aid, up from 47 percent only four years earlier, taking an average of $8,200 per person. And as the WSJ reports, these aren’t all low-income students; use of grants and federal loans is becoming increasingly universal:

The report highlighted an increasing dependence on federal assistance for college across all socioeconomic groups. For instance, the number of full-time students who received Pell grants in families with incomes between $60,000 to $80,000 shot up to 18% in 2011-12 from 2% in 2007-08.

“Even students from households we would consider middle-income are increasingly eligible and are increasingly taking advantage of Pell grants,” said Mr. Buckley, speaking about the flagship federal grant program of means-tested funding for students.

Via Meadia has nothing in principle against government aid for tuition, particularly when it is given to highly talented students from modest backgrounds, for whom college would otherwise be far out of reach. But when well over half of all students depend on federal aid to attend college, it’s clear that something is out of whack. Making federal aid so abundant that it becomes the norm takes much of the pressure off colleges to reform themselves, and allows them to continue raising prices. Unless colleges are forced to compete for students on price, they will continue to use tuition dollars to fund lavish construction projects and administrative salaries rather than cutting costs.

As things stand now, federal student aid policies seem to be more bent on funneling cash to colleges than on helping students.

[College quad image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Pete

    “But when well over half of all students depend on federal aid to attend college, it’s clear that something is out of whack. ”


  • Boritz

    It’s as if they are being conditioned to favor a particular political philosophy.

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