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Financial Aid Unfair? psh, It's Absurd!

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Replies to: Financial Aid Unfair? psh, It's Absurd!

  • gwgradgwgrad Registered User Posts: 470 Member
    panjandrum wrote: »
    However, middle class and upper middle class get a big portion of their income soaked dry by college tuition.

    Definitely.

    We're punishing the children of the middle class hard-working parents who find moderate success. The middle class can't always afford to pay 100% for college. So, our middle class students who got great grades are now stuck with student loans to attend these schools just because they're middle class. All the while, Johnny over there is poor so he gets a free ride to the same school, regardless of whether he got a low GPA or even tried hard in school or not...

    Which makes us ask the question: is a free college education a human right? Is so, why? If not, why are we giving such financial aid to the poor but not middle class students? And, where is merit and performance of individual students considered and rewarded in all of this?
  • MommaJMommaJ Registered User Posts: 5,638 Senior Member
    So, our middle class students who got great grades are now stuck with student loans to attend these schools just because they're middle class
    No one is "stuck" with student loans. If these hypothetical students' grades are so great, they can snag merit scholarships. They can go to community college for two years, take off a few years to work and save up for tuition, and then attend a directional state school part-time while working. There are many paths to a degree. They don't all require debt, and none of them involve whining about all the lucky breaks the poor kids get. And this vision you have of high achieving middle class students with mountains of debt sitting in class next to low achieving poor students with free rides? Show me the stats that back up that vision, because I think it's a mirage.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Super Moderator Posts: 14,520 Super Moderator
    Unfortunately, those who believe that lazy, poor kids are sitting fat & happy just rolling in free money at the expense of the middle class are not going to change how they feel. Too bad, in my opinion.

    There is no money tree. In order to assist the poorest students, our society has in place a system that provides limited assistance for higher education. The amount available is limited by the fact that money does not grow on trees. This assistance will not cover the whole cost of college. Some private schools - very few - will "give" very poor students free money that covers costs. That is their decision and their right. If you don't like the fact that they charge some people full price to cover the poor kids, don't go to that school. There are plenty more schools to attend.

    Yes, the middle class is getting priced out of many schools. It is tough for families to pay for college. The solution lies in several areas: students need to focus on affordable options; parents need to save and be willing to live in such a manner that they have income available for school (smaller house, older car, less desirable neighborhood, etc.); schools need to get their spending under control so tuition can be reined in. The solution does not lie in many of the ideas espoused on this thread.

    I am done now. No one will change his or her mind, regardless of what I or anyone here has to say.
  • BobWallaceBobWallace Registered User Posts: 2,222 Senior Member
    The solution is very simple, really. Have your parents quit their jobs the year before you apply to college, and donate any assets or savings they might have to charity. Then - voila! - your family can leave the lush and carefree life of the poor and get all the fancy government benefits and financial aid that come with it.
  • vlinesvlines Registered User Posts: 3,579 Senior Member
    One of the big problems with financial aid is the narrow time frame that is reviewed for financial aid.

    Family income for the past 10 years, or even the life of the student should be considered.

    FA seems to assume that the family income has been consistent for many years.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    First of all, I want to make clear that I understand what the OP is saying. The system is not fair and it may even be based on a tenet that may not even hold up if ever challenged. The way it works is that you are not independent of your parents until AGE 24, for the most part, for college payment purposes. So you are hamstringing an independent adult to what his parents are willing to do and pay for 6 years after his coming of age. The educations system is counting on the parents wanting the most for their kids and being willing to pay for them. Doesn't always happen. There are kids from dysfunctional families, parents who won't pay, and they are left without the options of those who have parents who will. The situation is always that way, of course. Those who are lucky enough to have caring, responsible parents, even indulgent parents get more from Day -9months. But we are extending the sentence to 6 full years after coming of age. And the only reason the system is doing this is because that is where the money is. Who else is going to invest a quarter million bucks into an 18 year old other than his parents? And the number of 18-22 that can come with the money to pay for college is about zip. Would bring the system down. You would then have parents who can and are still on board slipping the money to their kids on the sly if you put it just on them. The way it works at least puts some order and tries to help those who most need it. But the way it is set up, those who have parents who can't and won't pay, but are deemed to have the money, get little or no aid, or whose parents just flat out won't fill out the forms are also out of contention for much in the way of funds.

    So I agree that it is unfair to those kids whose parents are not willing to pay, actually won't pay when they are deemed able to pay.

    There are also a lot of very serious things wrong with the system, that I would love to get fixed, and it is a personal regret of mine that I did not work towards being in position to make changes in that area. But this is not going to help those complaining under the banner of this thread. I 'd like to pull all federal and state finanicial aid like PELL, loans, etc from the private school and put those resources into building better state school choices that are more open to everyone, starting with improving our community college system. But I digress from the point of this thread.

    For the most part, this rant is about the private schools, Do keep that in mind. PRIVATEs. Like those schools most kids did not even think about attending, that their parents did not consider from k-12. Like the boarding schools, maybe the names like Exeter, Andover, Choate, will stir up a few memories. You know, the schools that cost almost as much as college. Why all of the sudden there is a crowd that thinks they should get equal access to Harvard when they understand perfectly well what it takes to get into, say, Deerfield or Groton, and didn't even give those schools a thought, is beyond me. Harvard, GW, NYU...the list goes on, are PRIVATE SCHOOLS. They can do what they want with their money. They pick who they want and charge them what they think they can squeeze out of them. They have a pot of money they use to pay for those rocks that aren't gonna yield the water, but it's their rules. They can come up with any legal way of distributing the money that they please. It's like joining a private club or anything that is private. They make their own rules. To be crying that this is unfair is the absurd part.

    There is good reason to complain when your state schools, local schools become unaffordable. Or when there are no good alternatives under your state system or there are not enough good choices. That's something that state residents need to address. I wish our state schools were better in the 3 Rs of Recognition, Ratings and Reputation, and feel it's a shame that they are not. I'd snatch that money away from the privates in a heart beat and use it to build those schools and strengthen the community and locals state colleges even more, though I think NY has done a pretty good job that way. But where anyone gets the idea that they have any entitlement to get into Harvard, or get paid to go there, or that there is anything fair about the process is being absurd. Those schools are on a mission to get the money--not their only mission, but let there be no misunderstanding they pay people with the specific goal as to how to get the most money and meet other goals, and like the bank robbers they hit up where the money is--the parents who have it. And the banks too who will again turn to the parents and lend the money to THEM, not the kids.

    As BobWallace said, however more succintly and directly than I am capable of doing, for those parents who feel this is unfair, it's not that difficult to get a low paying job and give away your money, and put yourself in the situation of those families you so envy. Going the other way is difficult, but you can always go poor.

    What would end a lot of this is if more parents, students refuse to pay. Go join the military, the peace corp, volunteer, find a job, travel, do the things dear to your heart for 6 years and then at age 24 apply to college. Enough people do that, and it would make a real change in the college landscape.

    But, yes it is absurd. I agree. But with only so much money in the game, how else is anyone to distribute it more fairly?

    To address a direct complaint, yes, those who take out loans and are from families that have higher incomes, are very much AS A GROUP better off than those who come from families that are poor. When I answer threads where the poster is contemplating loans, the family support and financial situation are indeed relevant. If push came to shove, the supportive family that has the means can help out in lean years when making the payment is difficult or not doable. That option does not exist for those who come from families who don't have two nickels to run together at the end of the month. Many parents are helping their kids with their loan payments, and as a warning to all, even a ten year period of paying that things is an exhausting burden. Not like a car payment--those parents who are paying it are often doing so painfully as they can also see their kid not living up to the investment made that he can't even pay for his own skin in the game with that $20K job he ended up with after the $200K investment and the measly (in the scope of things) $25K loan that is more than the car he had to buy to get to the job. So that option is there. Also parents who can, most of the time, do help with the finding a job and getting settled expenses. To say that a kid from a home with means does not have those advantages, is ignoring the reality. Yeah, some parents won't help, many are fed up by then, but by no means are they as stuck like those from families who are looking for money just to meet their own monthly expenses

    My son's friend's family is very needy. Always has been, still is. He finds it depressing to go home because the begging for money starts. He got a financial aid package that made it possible for him to go away to school, a good move from a truly dysfunctional family with many problems. They stole from him a few times, one time causing a huge problem, as he, the college kid taking loans and workstudy was the richest one in the family in terms of having any money. So they took it as they would now, if he isn't careful. He has to pay a service to safeguard his SSN as they have and will use it to get funds on his credit. He owes about $40K in loans due to Perkins and Staffords, and it is one rough go for him to make the payments. He'll be pushing fifty when he's done. And he is one of the elite in his neighborhood and family, having a college education. If you envy him, you are going down the wrong path, other than envying his strength in character and discipline to go against the very mold in which he was cast.
  • zoosermomzoosermom Registered User Posts: 25,950 Senior Member
    In this moment in time, the cut-off for middle class status or financial aid is really irrelevant. What everyone needs to remember every single day is that if you aren't fantastically wealthy, you may see yourself as a middle-class professional but you are only one illness or layoff away from disaster because the vast majority of people in that category can't survive without the income of the family's breadwinner. If he/she becomes ill or loses his/her job, there is little likelihood of another job with the same salary and benefits coming up any time soon. Every student going to college needs to know in his soul that this economy supports jobs with no benefits or internships or temp positions or multiple part-time jobs, so don't ever assume that you will take X in loans and get a job that will allow you to pay them off while taking advantage of such luxuries as food and shelter.
  • CTScoutmomCTScoutmom Registered User Posts: 1,387 Senior Member
    Our family is among the group for whom the OP thinks the system is unfair. While it is harder for us to come up with $20,000 per year, I don't hthink it is as much of a burden as the OP thinks. A few years ago we attended a financial aid presentation given by our school system, where the director of financial aid from a local private college explained the process to families. whenparents were told flat out that most of them would be expected to come up with $20,000 a year, the room became very quiet -most were wondering how in the world they were going to come up with that money. Then he told them. The "hardship" for many will be giving up the $150 a month cable programming, the fancy dinners, and exotic vacations.

    I would argue that families that have been in the $100,000 income range for a while should have been able to save for their children's education. If they didn't, perhaps they were living above their means. Families that only recently entered the $100,000 income range should know how to live comfortably at the old income range - which frees up that extra income to pay for college. We are part of the latter group, and have managed to do both - we have saved enough to pay 25% of our EFC out of a 529 account, and payed extra toward our mortgage over the years so that we would have no mortgage payment by the time we have to pay tuition. Add that to increased income over the past few years, and it is manageable. Rather than make significant sacrifices when the kids enter college, we have systematically made smaller sacrifices all along the way. If you want your kids to have a college education, that's what you do.

    Those low income families - many of them are making sacrifices too. The students that got into Harvard or Yale certainly made sacrifices. Maybe they had a part time job to help support their families while they earned high grades and test scores. Maybe their parents worked 2 or 3 jobs so they didn't have to work, and could concentrate on school. Yes, there are some whose families lived off government support, but those kids likely battled an environment where they got little emotional support toward their aspiration to attend Harvard or Yale.
  • ordinarylivesordinarylives Registered User Posts: 2,892 Senior Member
    Let's talk a little about college budgets and the notion that full pay students are subsidizing the low income.

    Mostly, that notion is hogwash.

    Aid/scholarships most often come from endowment funds, not the current operating budget which is where your tution goes. Endowment funds can have many, many strings attached, for instance, interest from fund A can be tapped ONLY to provide aid to cover the tution of low-income students after the pell grant has been applied. Endowment fund B can be accessed only for students in athletics. Endowment C is open to whatever aid the institution wants to award. The point is, the endowment money, like a restricted trust, isn't necessarily a giant money pool a school gets to dip into whenever and for whatever it wants. The donors, not current tution-paying students, get to determine how that money is spent. If the donors value educational opportunities for the poor, athletics, computer science majors, even kids from upper middle class homes, that's how the money has to be used.

    So, while you may be upset about that low income's students great aid, that student's tutiton comes from Pell, Stafford, Perkins, maybe state aid, and a draw down from endowment money. There is tuition equivalent cash going into the school's current operating budget, even if the money isn't direct pay from the student's parents. Schools with very large endowments can be very generous to whoever they choose.
  • kayfkayf Registered User Posts: 4,161 Senior Member
    I think that colleges and universties should stop with free or reduced tuition to their own employees (other than appropriate need or merit aid). I think more college people would be sympathetic to middle class complaints if that were the case. Certianly the law should be changed so that none of that is tax-free.
  • beth's mombeth's mom Registered User Posts: 3,361 Senior Member
    While in some institutions aid is indeed aid, because the cost of the service they are providing is higher than the price charged, in many institutions aid is not aid. Aid is, again, price discrimination. In these institutions they charge the full payers to subsidize those who receive large finaid packages. The wealthy does not suffer from it, because the cost is a small percentage of income. However, middle class and upper middle class get a big portion of their income soaked dry by college tuition.

    I agree with this. And it's in large part why we did not even look at these schools, in spite of having the ability to pay their costs. We just didn't think the value was there.
  • vineyardviewvineyardview Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    -The solution is very simple, really. Have your parents quit their jobs the year before you apply to college, and donate any assets or savings they might have to charity. Then - voila! - your family can leave the lush and carefree life of the poor and get all the fancy government benefits and financial aid that come with it-

    Actually, Bob Wallace, there is another way that I've seen students getting full aid lately...getting married. These are students who would probably not get married otherwise, but when faced with the prospect of waiting until they are 24 years old to be "independent" for financial aid purposes, they get hitched. Takes their EFC to practically zilch.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 8,810 Senior Member
    While married students might have FAFSA EFC of $0, most private colleges using the Profile can and often do ask for parent financial information if it's clear that these married students have no obvious means of support. (No income, no assets, etc)

    This is standard practice at professional schools which can and do require parental financial information from married students without a working spouse.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    The way a lot of private colleges work it with their own aid, is that if you enter as a dependent student, you finish up as one in terms of financial aid. My son's school will not give financial aid out of their own coffers for those who take a leave, come back and are now independent. Nope. You can get the FAFSA guarantees, but not the school's money. Also many professional schools look at what the parents; have in terms of financial aid. They can make their own rules. Take it or leave it.
  • vineyardviewvineyardview Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    WayOutWestMom & cptofthehouse- interesting...I didn't know about that, as around here most kids just go to the local public university, which just uses the FAFSA for aid, I believe.
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