Housing Costs — More Than Tuition — Are Crushing California's Low-Income College Students

"Sadia Kahn ended up at UC Berkeley because of a look her dad gave her. When she was in middle school she told him she wanted to go to Berkeley because she'd noticed adults perked up when they heard the word, but in this case it backfired," KQED reports. "'He had the saddest look in his eye,' Kahn recalls. 'I think he felt guilty. He knew that was something we couldn't afford.'"

"Attending a university in California can be a financial burden beyond the means of many college hopefuls. Rising tuition is compounded by the lack of affordable housing in the state and the high cost of living.

Kahn took her father's concern as a challenge. So a few years after her dad's death, Kahn was accepted to UC Berkeley as a junior transfer student, and it felt like fate.

Now she could not avoid the question of cost. Tuition often dominates discussions of affordability because it has more than tripled since 1992, according to the University of California and California State University budget offices.

But California is generous when it comes to covering tuition at its public schools.

Like more than half of University of California students, Kahn would not have to pay tuition or student fees. UC guarantees those costs will be covered for families making less than $80,000 — and three out of four CSU students who get financial aid don't pay any tuition, according to CSU.

Still, school did not seem affordable for Kahn. 'Oh my God,' she says, 'When I started looking into housing it was just kind of like, OK, I'm definitely not going to school at this rate.'

'What we don't do a great job of is funding the total cost of attendance, which means the housing, the food, the transportation,' says Lupita Cortez Alcala, director of the California Student Aid Commission, the agency that runs the state's financial aid programs.

In a little over a decade, the median rent in California has gone up 44 percent. Over the same period, the maximum financial aid award the state gives low-income students for non-tuition costs has gone up by only 8 percent, according to a recent report from the California Budget & Policy Center.

In terms of federal aid, Pell Grants for low-income students used to cover up to 80 percent of the average cost of going to an in-state public university. Now they cover no more than 30 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Kahn moved into the cheapest place she could find, a room shared with two other women for $615 a month in a house a few blocks from campus. Giving up privacy was hard — even after a couple months she still changed in the bathroom."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 6/12/2018

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