Financial ‘Safety Schools’ Are Difficult to get

Most public universities are no longer affordable for low-income students, writes Carrie Warick, leaving few financially safe choices for applicants.

When applying to colleges, students are generally told to include a “safety school” to make certain they have been accepted to one or more institution. For low-income students, such as 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 one to that they are not just accepted but additionally are reasonably sure they are able to 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 crucial question. To resolve it, NCAN designed an affordability measure to see whether a low-income student can reasonably be prepared to successfully patch together most of the possible sources for funding a four-year degree in today’s public higher education system.

Why, specifically, a four-year degree? As it’s the path that is surest into the middle income for low-income students and students of color. And why examine public institutions in particular? Simply because they were founded to serve all learning students in their state. Their missions derive from ensuring access. At least, low-income students need a single college option that is affordable.

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

This way of measuring affordability is detailed in NCAN’s new paper that is white “Shutting Low-Income Students Out of Public Four-Year advanced schooling.” It weighs the expense of attendance at an institution — plus $300 to cover 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 whilst in school and summer work that is full-time. Combining most of these aid sources — which requires an adept navigation associated with the financial aid system — still does not allow students to afford 412 of this 551 (75 percent) residential public four-year institutions within the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

It was not always the full case, and NCAN members are seeing the impact of the 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. Even if students try everything right, many in 2018 are finding which they still can’t afford to pursue a college degree.”

It is a equity that is significant for the 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 already significantly more than four times prone to complete a bachelor’s degree than are low-income students — 60 percent versus 14 percent, respectively. Additionally, low-income students are almost twice as likely as their high-income peers to obtain a postsecondary certificate or degree that is associate.

Sub-baccalaureate degrees and credentials are valuable, however the concentration of low-income students in these programs is surely an indication that students don’t have choices that are equitable picking their career paths. As the definition of postsecondary education expands, it’s important that low-income students — like their higher-income peers — retain the option to choose their postsecondary and professional paths based on skills and interests, not finances alone.

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

Methods to college affordability must address multifaceted issues: the complexity of this system, affordability during the access point to all pathways — particularly the four-year degree — while the debt burden of the who are able to manage to enroll in the first place. Policy makers and advocates must increase their focus 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.