Term Paper: Improving Affordability in Higher Education Through Federal

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Improving Affordability in Higher Education Through Federal Student Aid Availability

Higher Up

Goal to Superseding Politics

The Case Today 4

Paramount Concerns

The Door to Higher Education

Improving Affordability in Higher Education through Federal Student Aid Availability

To the Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Student Aid Program, Theresa S. Shaw:

Higher Up

Goal to Supersede Politics Needed

We shall one day learn to supersede politics by education.

What we call our root-and-branch reforms of slavery, war, gambling, intemperance, is only medicating the symptoms.

We must begin higher up, namely, in Education. (Emerson, 1860)

Going to college needs to be an expectation for all students who attend high school, Zarate contends. (Horwedel, 2006) In today's higher education, however, this may not be feasible for some students from low income families as many colleges and universities are not readily affordable and federal student aid is not always easily accessed.

During the past 20 years, however, federal financial aid has veered from awarding grants. Loans, rather than grants, totaled 45% of federal student aid in 1981. Fifty-eight percent of federal aid to students was loan form during 2000. During the 1999-2000 academic year, more than one half of America's 16.5 million higher education students received some type of financial aid from federal, state, institutional, or other sources. Of this number, forty-four percent of undergraduates received grants, which averaged $3,500, while 29% of these students secured student loans, which averaged $5,100. (Camara & Kimmel, 2005, p. 45)

Today, as higher education is noted to more valuable than ever, a higher percentage of low-income students borrow, and borrowing is a much greater burden on low-income students and parents." This financial aid factor significantly impacts the.".. poor and racial and/or ethnic students who are projected to swell college enrollments." (Camara & Kimmel, 2005, p. 45)

The problem with the decrease of in the number of grants awarded by the federal government is not with the design of the aid programs. "The problem is that we have not had an increase in the funding of these programs in the last five years." David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, states. Warren's statement presents one component related to reasons how and why the Federal Student Aid Program can increase financial aid access to students of low income, from non-traditional families, and diverse backgrounds. In the past, higher education was more affordable for students from low- and middle income backgrounds. When the formula the government uses to asses a student's need was utilized, most students came from a traditional two parents families who could pay at least a portion of their children college bills, and fewer students worked full time while enrolled in college. This, however, is not a common contemporary familial ro financial scenario. The makeup of families today has dramatically changed from that time.

Single parent families are now much more common in an era where only 30% of students fit into the traditional family model. These factors need to be considered when determining college aide and other tuition assistance, as well as the fact that some college students prefer to pay their own way. (Burd).

Increasing access to higher education for single parent students and those students who prefer to pay their own way through college, while simultaneously gaining federal aid assistance is paramount to creating a diverse student population on college campuses across the nation.

To bolster access to higher education, the federal government needs to recommit to insure and "underwrite higher education as a public good," Fong (2005) contends. Increasing the maximum allowable for Pell Grant amount represents one step the right way. Institutions need free reign to control their costs, as America's free market works. Also in the past, Fong (2005) states, "Higher education has demonstrated a continuing commitment to access and diversity, and tuition increases have actually been a means at colleges and universities... maintaining hat access and diversity.

Student aid needs to be restructured, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education stresses in a final draft report submitted in 2006. How to achieve the aim to restructure, albeit, constitutes a paramount concern. (Burd, 2006, p. A40)

Few details of how to achieve those aims, akin to two complimentary concepts conveyed in this policy briefing, however, are explained. This policy briefing, on the other hand, instead of initiating uncertain qualms, will clearly posit its purposes include strong recommendations to:

Increase federal student aid, and Increase federal student aid to students who come from non-traditional family and diverse backgrounds.

Accompanying these two recommendations regarding federal student aid, this briefing will, unlike the plan's most concrete proposal which.".. calls for the government to raise the purchasing power of the typical Pell Grant to cover 70% of the average in-state tuition at public four-year colleges over the next five years," (Burd, 2006, p. A40)

Currently, the Pell Grant's average award, approximately $2,500, only pays for 48% of higher education's osts. How to implement the proposal to extensively expand the Pell Grant program, however, raises concerns, even though it is recommended this particular proposal would be partially paid for, by merging some federal aid programs. More questions that arise include:

Which programs are believed to be expendable?

How much of the increase would be funded from abolishing particular programs?

What amount of funding would evolve from additional federal dollars being allocated for higher education? (Burd, 2006, p. A40)

Before the United States Student Association can support nay plan, Rebecca Thompson, legislative director of the advocacy group, insists, specific details explaining how the plan will work to benefit students have to be presented. "The lack of specificity makes it hard to know what the impact will be," she says. "I can understand why they would be concerned, and why they care very much in what direction this is all heading." (Burd, 2006, p. A40) The Perkins Loan and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs are intended to supplement Pell Grants for low-income students and provide aid for middle-class students who barely miss the grants' cutoff points. (Burd, 2006, p. A40)

II. The Case Today

Paramount Concerns

As today's college students come from more diverse backgrounds than ever before, college students' family situations vicariously vary from those in previous generations. According to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, experts note: Working-class students are not effectively served by a student-aid system created by the federal government in the 1960s and 1970s to help make college

According to Chitty (2006), along with spending per student on higher education by state and local entities being at a 25-year low, federal lawmakers are reportedly not implementing investments to expand higher educations opportunities for low income students. At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., Jamie Merisotis, founding president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), notes: "Whatever the rhetoric may be, the reality is that we have lost the debate about the public good that higher education contributes to our society. We in higher education have been sorely ineffective in our task of making the case for investment in higher education opportunity." When states and the federal government do not have enough cash, unfortunately education is a primary first budget items cut. Speakers attending the April 2006 conference the National College Access Network (NCAN) and the Council on Opportunity in Education (COE) hosted, albeit, argue Americans are exerting little or no pressure on politicians to encourage them to increase spending to increase college access for needs-based students. (Chitty, 2006)

Joe McCormick, the executive director of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) contends many individuals mistakenly believe misperceptions about higher education opportunities, which in turn.".. makes need-based financial aid less of a priority than it should be. Merit-based aid is not popular because it is good policy. It's popular because it gets votes." In a survey he implemented, McGough discovered nearly half of individuals surveyed mistakenly believe a majority of low-income students do not qualify academically to attend a four-year higher education programs. (Chitty, 2006) Many Americans also mistakenly think the average federal Pall Grant pays for approximately half the expenses of attending a public four-year college or university. The College Board's 2005 annual report, however, reports the average Pell Grant award was only $2,469 during the 2004-2005 academic year. The average cost for a four-year public institution, however, totaled $5,126, not counting the $6,250 average cost for room and board. (Chitty, 2006)

On March 390, 2006, the House passed a bill Republicans posit will benefit all college students. Democrats, on the other hand, argue this bill does not go far enough to help needy students and families afford higher education. The measure passed with a 221-199 vote. "The bill increases the Pell Grant program for poor students from $5,800 to $6,000 and simplifies the process for seeking financial aid." In addition, this bill mandates that school report tuition charges to the Department of Education so figures may be posted on a Web site for students and/or parents to review when evaluating… [END OF PREVIEW]

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