Financial ‘Safety Schools’ Are Hard to get

Most universities that are public not any longer affordable for low-income students, writes Carrie Warick, leaving few financially safe choices for applicants.

When deciding on colleges, students are generally told to add a “safety school” to ensure these are generally accepted to one or more institution. For low-income students, like those who receive advising from college access programs like members of the National College Access Network, in addition they need a type that is different of safety school: a financial someone to which they are not only accepted but additionally are reasonably sure they could afford.

As parents’ concerns about college costs surpass even their worries about having enough money for retirement, whether an inexpensive college option exists — particularly for low-income students — is a question that is crucial. To resolve it, NCAN designed an affordability measure to see whether a low-income student can reasonably expect to successfully patch together every one of the possible sources for funding a four-year degree in today’s public higher education system.

Why, specifically, a four-year degree? Because it’s the surest path to your middle-income group for low-income students and students of color. And why examine public institutions in particular? Because they were founded to serve all learning students in their state. Their missions are based on ensuring access. At the minimum, low-income students need a single affordable college option.

But unfortunately, only 25 percent of public, four-year residential institutions are affordable for the average first-time, full-time Pell Grant recipient who is involved in a minimum-wage job. This percentage plummets to approximately 10 percent when examining flagship that is public.

This measure of affordability is detailed in NCAN’s new white paper, “Shutting Low-Income Students Out of Public Four-Year Higher Education.” It weighs the cost of attendance at an institution — plus $300 to pay for emergency expenses — against students’ average total grant aid from federal, state and institutional resources; the institution’s average federal loan amount; the common Pell Grant recipient’s expected family contribution; and an approximation of students’ earnings from part-time work while in school and summer work that is full-time. Combining a few of these aid sources — which requires an adept navigation of the aid that is financial — still will not allow students to afford 412 of this 551 (75 percent) residential public four-year institutions into the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

This was not at all times the full case, and NCAN members are seeing the impact associated with shift on the go.

“When I were only available in this operate in 2004, i possibly could confidently say that whenever we did our jobs right and our students did their act as well, then spending money on college wasn’t a barrier with their success,” Traci Kirtley, chief program officer at College Possible, told NCAN. “That’s no today that is longer true. Regardless if students try everything right, many in 2018 have found that they still can’t manage to pursue a college degree.”

This can be a significant equity issue for our country. It’s also a timely one, as policy makers question whether college is “for everyone” and promote shorter-term programs whose outcomes are generally less beneficial. High-income students are usually a lot more than four times more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than are low-income students — 60 percent versus 14 percent, respectively. Additionally, low-income students are almost two times as likely as their high-income peers to obtain a postsecondary certificate or associate degree.

Sub-baccalaureate degrees and credentials are valuable, nevertheless the concentration of low-income students during these programs is surely a sign that students do not have choices that are equitable picking their career paths. Once the concept of postsecondary education expands, it’s important that low-income students — like their peers that are higher-income wthhold the option to choose their postsecondary and professional paths predicated on skills and interests, not finances alone.

This reality of college affordability should not be acceptable to either our federal or state policy makers. It will act as a wake-up call that policies meant to improve our nation’s higher education system must address all pathways, thereby helping low-income students essay help pursue a four-year degree should they desire one.

Methods to college affordability must address multifaceted issues: the complexity associated with the system, affordability during the access point to all pathways — especially the four-year degree — together with debt burden of these who are able to manage to sign up for the place that is first. Policy makers and advocates must increase their concentrate on a cohesive plan to address college affordability. The share of low-income students completing four-year degrees will remain inequitable as they continue to lack at least one viable, affordable college option without a holistic approach.