Many factors affect the cost of a college education

October 20th, 2005 by Key Magazine

The recent reports on the cost of a college education have generated much buzz in the media and blogosphere lately. As the cost of a college education rises at a slower pace, the amount of financial aid has decreased at a much faster rate. After decades of trying to make college accessible to the general public, rising cost increasingly make college something only the elite in America can afford. Preparing your students for the realities of paying for a college education should be done early and often.

Because need-based financial aid is decreasing, high school students must rely on other financial aid options such as merit-based aid, private and local scholarship programs, community service scholarships and business grants.

MSN Money reported that “while state spending on need-based aid has increased, merit-based aid has grown faster in recent years, College Board and university officials noted. Merit aid went from 10% of all state aid in 1993 to 26% by 2003, the most recent year for which figures are available.”

This trend toward merit-based financial aid can directly harm the chances of minority and urban students because the quality of education is often lower in inner-city public schools than in suburban public schools. Competing for financial aid becomes more difficult.

High school students must also accept that college debt will be a way of life following graduation. The average college loan debt is now $15,500. Congress is negotiating a new version of the Higher Education Act, which would set federal financial aid policy for the coming years. A House version passed last month increases some grants, but critics say it would harm borrowers by cutting $9 billion from student loan programs. That means that even federal loans could be scarce in the next few years.

“Basically, they are subsidizing the education of middle- and upper-income families,” said William Kirwan, chancellor of Maryland’s university system, citing as an example the Georgia Hope Scholarship program, which covers tuition and fees at a Georgia public university to any student with a B average.

What are your thoughts on the recent financial aid news? How are you preparing your students for the rising cost of a college education and the decrease in available financial aid? Let us know what you think!

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