Food for Thought - Managing Skyrocketing Student Need

The economic downturn will have a long-lasting impact on students and their families. As the economic recovery proceeds at a slow pace, students are needier than ever. In fact, the population of students with such dire financial need that the amount the federal government expect their families to pay is effectively zero is growing dramatically. What strategies are your institution using to address skyrocketing student financial need?

Population of needy college students is exploding
Source: The Washington Post
Date: 1/12/12
There is a group of students who enter college with such dire financial need that the amount the federal government expects their families to contribute to college is effectively zero. In Wisconsin, that zero-pay population has grown by half in a single year: from 42,641 students in the 2008-09 academic year to 65,800 in 2009-10. The data come from Rolf Wegenke, president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and surely they mirror a national trend. Incoming college students have grown markedly more needy since the 2008 economic downturn.

New Republic: Belt Tightening on College Costs
Source: NPR
Date: 1/10/12
Even as the economy has reorganized itself to make college degrees increasingly indispensable for the pursuit of a decent career, federal financial aid programs and family income haven't been able to keep up with incredibly buoyant tuition bills. Students and families have been left with only one recourse: borrowing. The federal government is now lending college students over one billion dollars per year, a 56 percent per-student increase, after adjusting for inflation, from just ten years ago. Most undergraduates borrow today, and leave college with an average of over $25,000 in debt. And as the many signs displayed by the Occupy movement attest, some young people owe much more than that. For a growing number of students, entering the lucrative college-educated realms of the economy is like being smuggled across the border — you can get to the promised land if you try hard enough, but you arrive in a state of indentured servitude to the shady operators who overcharged you for the trip.

Related Coverage:

The Columbus Dispatch (OH): Shaping the future of higher education

The Value Gap
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education
Date: 1/11/12
Since the late 1970s, when some type of a college education essentially became a requirement for a solid, sustainable, middle-class job, the cost of that education has skyrocketed. The annual price tag for a college credential has risen about three times as fast as inflation, and there is no sign that it’s slowing down. In the last decade alone, tuition rates at public colleges and universities, which enroll about 80 percent of American students, rose by an average of 5.6 percentage points above inflation every year. Despite those vast price increases, students continued to line up for admission to one of the nation’s colleges. To pay the bills, students and their families borrowed—a lot.


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