News ID: 150478
Published: 0244 GMT April 30, 2016

Middle-class kids inhibited by US college costs

Middle-class kids  inhibited by US college costs

It’s become an ironclad fact of life: Higher education is a prerequisite for a middle-class lifestyle. But a new joint study shows that spiraling costs are pushing higher education further from reach for lower- and middle-income families, while state lines can determine how much they’ll pay.


The study by researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Institute for Research in Higher Education found that since 2008, overall college affordability has fallen 45 states, owing in part to slashed state spending on higher education in the years during and since the Great Recession, reported

As a result, low- and middle-income earners in certain states now must spend as much as 76 percent of their annual income to pay a student’s tuition and expenses at a four-year public school, according to the study, 'The 2016 College Affordability Diagnosis'. Things aren’t any better at the community college level, where some households with income of $30,000 or less are likely to pay as much as 61 percent of their earnings for costs at a two-year public school.

Meanwhile, financial aid doesn’t go as far as it did before, access to it has tightened, and a working student would need to work so many hours to pay the bills — and probably is already facing pressure to support him or herself, or a family — that college would take a backseat to finding a job, the study says. That makes taking on heavy debt through student loans the only option for young people who want to get an education to get ahead.

Education policymakers must seek to lessen the financial burden of higher education on these families,” the report says. “Unless we make college affordable for people of all financial means, opportunity through higher education will be a false promise."

Will Doyle, an education policy researcher at Vanderbilt and one of the study’s authors, says a confluence of factors has caused the nation to drift into a much more expensive system that forces households into five- and six-figure debt to pay for college.


“What we’ve been doing is turning to students and family and asking them to make up the difference — to find the money or borrow the money,” says Doyle, an associate professor of higher education in Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Unless the problem is addressed quickly, he says, things are likely to get worse.


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