College Affordability: Implications for College Opportunity

    Vol 36, No. 1, 2006 p. 7 

    by Laura W. Perna and Chunyan Li

    By examining trends in college affordability, this article explores the extent to which the public perception that college is not affordable is justified. First, the article describes trends in national indicators that contribute to ability to pay, including income growth, health care costs, debt burden, and personal savings rates. Trends in college pricing, including tuition and fees, unmet financial need, and student aid, are then examined. Finally, the article considers the potential contribution of these trends to college opportunity. Based on this examination, it is clear that college affordability has declined in recent years, especially for those in low-income and lower-middle-income families. In order to promote equality of college access and choice, policymakers should consider ways to improve affordability, particularly by targeting financial aid resources toward students from low- and lower middle- income backgrounds.