When college costs rise, everyone is hurt. But the growing price tag takes a particular toll on students from low-income families.
For them, it means more than digging deeper to pay for higher education. It can mean opportunity lost, once and for all.
The College Board reports that the average cost of a year’s tuition, housing, and meals in 2013-14 is $18,393 per student at a public college or university, and $40,924 at a private institution. It’s no wonder college students these days graduate with average debt of $29,400.
Despite such harrowing numbers, President Obama and more than 140 colleges, universities, foundations, and businesses are determined to broaden college access for low-income students and keep them on track to graduation. Last week, the President applauded the efforts of those schools and organizations, and challenged their peers across the country to emulate them.
The exemplary colleges and universities held up by the President are approaching the challenge in different ways — without new legislation or additional government spending. Some are stepping up their recruitment of low-income students and expanding support services so that they graduate at the same rate as other students.
It’s not all about money. The President was right to point out that many students from low-income families don’t get the push or preparation to aspire to college, unlike their peers from middle to upper-middle-class families, which see higher education as mandatory.
For that reason, stepped-up efforts by the College Board, the United Negro College Fund, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and other organizations are just as necessary as the schools’ initiatives.
Although it isn’t foolproof, a college degree is still one of the best bets for a young adult to attain steady employment, higher earning power, and a life of greater knowledge and success. If more students can afford college, more Americans will be able to take advantage of the nation’s opportunities.