College students facing crisis in financial aid
“No!” was the immediate and direct response I received from Sen. Russ Feingold when I asked if he felt the financial aid available to students today can compete with rising tuition costs. He states that the Pell Grant addition to the recent health care bill was a step in the right direction but it is clearly not enough to compete with rising tuitions.
Rep. Paul Ryan echoed a similar sentiment. Ryan is concerned that if all we focus on is the increase of Pell Grant limits, it could have a detrimental effect that leads to even greater increases in college tuitions.
While interviewing numerous advocacy groups, including the College Board, American Council on Education and the Department of Education, I learned of additional financial aid opportunities that need to be developed further.
In 1990, Pell grants were offered to 90 percent of the applicants with an average income of $41,000 and covered approximately 60 percent of the tuition. Today, Pell grants are primarily offered to students with incomes less than $20,000 and the aid barely covers 33 percent of the cost of a state education. The program may offer more total aid to a larger number of students; however, the income limit decreases the range of scholarship opportunities.
Not all financial aid needs to be in the form of a grant. A faction of need-based families does rely on Pell Grants to afford college. Others don’t qualify but still need financial support. Expansion of the federal student loan program and development of tax incentives can provide options to the “middle class” family and student. This is a serious issue that needs to be focused on for the foundation of our future scholars.
Katie Brossard wrote this as part of Washington Seminar at Janesville Parker High School.