After years of sleepless nights to finish assignments, months of fervently applying to colleges and days of anxious waiting, what makes it all worth it is the acceptance email from your dream college. But even after all of the anticipation, the road to college can still be far from over.
Come college acceptance season, high school seniors prepare to leave home and set off for college, but depending on a family’s financial situation, an acceptance email may not be the best news in the world.
Particularly, middle class families face the plight of being too rich to qualify for financial aid but too poor to afford college.
College bound students calculate their eligibility for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through this form, they calculate their Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a formula that predicts how much money a family can spare to pay for college.
While the EFC takes into consideration factors such as income and current assets, it fails to consider others like saving to send a younger child to college in coming years.
The system primarily targets low-income families that have a particularly low EFC, making middle class families too rich to qualify for aid.
But, because of the factors it ignores, middle class families are also less financially-equipped to pay for college than their EFC may suggest.
There are people I know personally who have gotten into their dream college out of state but had to settle for in-state because they could not afford it.
Not to say Virginia’s in-state options are not good, but the sole reasons their literal dream is not coming true is their financial disadvantage and FAFSA’s failure to accommodate them.
There is also the option of applying for certain grants and receiving scholarships based on factors like grades and test scores. But the money for this type of aid primarily goes to more wealthy families who can afford a better quality education and to support a student through college.
One particular grant students can apply for is the Pell Grant, which is based on an individual’s EFC, cost of attendance for the school they are applying to, status as a full or part-time student and their plan to attend school for a full academic year or less.
With rising costs of college, middle class families’ ability to pay for it has fallen. While there has been more of an effort from private colleges and universities to offer equal opportunities, they are still not meeting the needs of those with lower income and most benefits still go to wealthier families.
Having students graduate college with less debt should be more of a priority, and dismantling the current divisive system of deciding who is worthy of financial aid is the first step.