According to Today Money, college students have a better chance of getting financial aid if they come from affluent backgrounds than if they are lower on the income scale, some new studies show.
There is growing evidence that colleges may be offering more scholarship money to wealthy students and less to those truly in need, and by doing so are perhaps closing a door to advancement for many families.
A new study by Sallie Mae found that 36 percent of students from wealthy families received scholarships averaging $10,213 for the school year just ended, while 35 percent of students from families earning less than $35,000 a year received scholarships worth an average of $7,237.
“With their relentless pursuit of prestige and revenue, the nation’s public and private four-year colleges and universities are in danger of shutting down what has long been a pathway to the middle class,” wrote Stephen Burd, author of the New America study. Why is this happening? For starters, colleges are in a perpetual race to rise in published rankings. Second tier schools are using offers of aid as lures for highly qualified students who might not otherwise attend – even if those students don’t really need the money.
Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at George Washington University’s graduate school of education, agrees that colleges are using merit aid in ways that don’t fit the mission of financial aid. But the underlying trends, she says, are complex.
Scars from the recession are another issue, Baum says, leaving more students in need of aid. One solution, she says, would be for colleges to lower their tuition and reduce the amount of merit aid they award. With colleges competing for the best students, that shift may be a long time in coming – but “they’re going to have to do something different,” she said. “I have to believe we will evolve in that direction.”