Priced Out: How the Wrong Financial-Aid Policies Hurt Low-Income Students

The Education Trust

Students from middle-income families often benefit more from higher education scholarship and grant programs than do the lower income students they were designed to help, a new report from The Education Trust finds.

Using “net cost” data now required to be reported to the U.S. Department of Education, the Trust found that only five universities in the country provided low-cost net prices to the low-income students, enrolled a percentage of low-income students roughly representative of the proportion in the general population and offered these students at least a 50 percent chance of graduating.

While many high-priced schools – including Harvard University and Duke University – offered significant aid to low-income students, the net costs of the schools were often more than half of the student’s family income and the percentage of low-income students attending the schools was very low.  For example, just 13 percent of Harvard’s entering freshman class were from low-income families and an even lower percentage – just 8 percent – of Duke’s entering freshman class could be classified as low-income.

No flagship public state universities, premier private colleges or for-profit colleges were among the five schools that offered the best deals for low-income students.  The five are:

  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • City University of New York Queens College
  • California State University – Fullerton
  • City University of New York Bernard M. Baruch College
  • California State University – Long Beach

Excluded from the listing was Berea College in Kentucky, at which all students are low-income, participate in a work/study program and pay no tuition.

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