"Springtime at the school where I teach is usually a celebration of how far so many of our students have come. After years of hard work, often overcoming massive obstacles — poverty, violence, fractured families, inferior educational opportunities that did not prepare them for demanding and not always sympathetic high school teachers like me — graduation is supposed to be a moment of victory, a launching pad to greater success and a life full of possibility," Larry Strauss writes in an opinion article for The Huffington Post.
"But more and more, I find those celebrations are tempered by a sudden cold slap from an indifferent world that cares little about the hard work of impoverished young people.
These past few weeks, with commitment day looming, I've often found myself trying to console at least one — often three or four — students crying in my classroom or in the hallway outside. They are frustrated and hurt because they are coming to the conclusion that all that work was for nothing, that no matter their dedication, they cannot figure out how they will ever be able to pay for college.
According to the College Board, the average annual tuition for a private university has more than doubled over the last 20 years, from just over $15,000 to almost $35,000. The average tuition for a public university has more than tripled, from just over $3,000 to nearly $10,000 a year.
In more stark terms, the average expense for a year of tuition, fees, room and board at a public university is now more than 80 percent of the median annual wage of an American woman and more than 50 percent of the median annual wage of a man. The cost of college has risen almost three times as fast as wages.
When my wife and I filled out our first FAFSA more than a decade ago, we were surprised to discover that the income of two educators was above the threshold for receiving any need-based financial aid for our college-bound older daughter. It remained the case even a few years later when we had two daughters in college.
At the time, I understood the grim reality of limited resources. If there is only so much money available to subsidize college education, then it probably ought to go to those who need it most. But now, 12 years later, financial aid is covering less and less.
So you end up seeing what I saw last week — the financial statement of a student trying to become first in her family to attend college. Her federal financial aid determination was that her family contribution should be 0.
That's ZERO. Nada. Not an unreasonable conclusion for a family living on less than $20,000 a year.
But that same student's financial aid offer from the university she hoped to attend only accounted for about two-thirds of her tuition and expenses. Her family was somehow expected to come up with $5,000. Even the loans she was offered did not cover this."
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Publication Date: 5/15/2018