Sallie Mae completed a study in association of Gallup that shows how the typical American families cover college costs. Since increasing numbers of families see a college education as a necessity for their children, they consider the sometimes-large costs as an investment in the future instead of an optional cost. The results of the study may not be shocking, but they do paint an alarming picture of the inequalities involved when it comes to getting a college education.
Among the results of the study, there was definite proof that students from families with higher incomes were more likely to attend expensive, prestigious colleges and universities. Families who had incomes of more than $100,000 a year saw an average cost of attendance for their children of around $24,000 annually. In contrast, the average cost of attendance was around $17,000 a year for students form low-income families with annual incomes of $35,000 a year or less. Those in the middle range saw college costs of around $17,000 a year. When you look at the ratio of cost of attendance to average income, it is easy to see that there is not an equal distribution among the different financial classes. As such, it is no surprise that many students from low income families choose to attend community colleges while those from affluent families typically attend private, 4-year institutions.
In addition, students from affluent families were less likely to take on student loan burdens. According to the study, only 24% of families borrowed student loan money when their incomes were over $150,000 a year. In families with incomes of between $50,000 and $150,000, about 38% of students borrowed student loans. AT the low end of the range, 49% of students from families earning less than $50,000 a year graduated with substantial student loan debt.
Why do so many students make the decision to saddle themselves with student loan debt? The answer is simple…they feel that they have no choice. It is a fact that a college education is necessary for most good jobs today, and having a good job is a necessity for meeting the rising costs of living. Over half of students surveyed said that they would rather go into student loan debt than give up their chances of going to college and around a third of students said they would not have been able to attend college without taking loans.
These figures paint a sad but true picture of the available of higher education. Although it is becoming more possible for students from low income families to attend college, they often can only do so by going in debt. Recent government measures have provided some hope, however. With the income-based repayment plans and student loan forgiveness options, there is a bright future for many economically-disadvantages students. If these measures were to be repealed by a new group of leaders, however, it is certain that the already huge gaps in college accessibility will grow even larger.