Money on My Mind: Paying for College


Anjali Sinha, Reporter

College. Everything associated with it tends to have a price tag: application fees, test scores, transcripts, tuition, room and board, and so much more. Paying for college is a struggle for many families, especially given the the very limited amount of financial aid provided.

Each family has its own unique circumstances, and students are oftentimes denied access to financial aid despite the fact that they need it. According to Jeffrey Selinger of the Washington Post, many students barely miss the cutoff for aid such as the Pell Grant, and since their family income is between $50,000 and $100,000, they are not eligible.

Senior Gina Saglimbeni said, “What is so frustrating about all of it as that my family cannot afford to pay $60,000 for college tuition, but we do not qualify for FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid]. I also have a twin brother who will be attending school next year and currently an older brother in college, and another brother getting his masters. Every single one of my siblings are in college or will be, and yet my family will not receive any aid. My brother and I both dream of leaving the state, but with super high costs, who knows if it will be possible.”

Without taking into account the greater picture, financial aid programs like FAFSA can hinder and limit students in terms of college attendance options. The cutoffs are very particular and exclude people who they assume will be able to pay. This fault impedes personal growth and development by shutting the doors to some opportunities.

“As tuition prices have climbed, colleges found they were discounting their tuition too much and their net tuition revenue—the amount of cash actually received from students or their outside aid—was flat or declining. So they moved their merit aid up the income scale in order to capture students, and more revenue, from higher-income families,” Selinger said.

Elaborating on the impact of increasing prices when applying for college, senior Veronica Hughes said, “Currently, the issue my family and I are facing is we are too wealthy for financial aid, but too ‘broke’ to afford tuition. Most colleges assume that students in the middle to upper middle class can afford college tuition but it’s not that simple.”

Although it is certain that each school has its unique attributes and will provide an excellent location, the application process has become more centered around money. “If colleges don’t begin to also focus on middle-income families, they will end up with campuses bifurcated by income that don’t reflect the economic diversity of the United States,” wrote Selinger.

Senior Mizuki Kadowaki said, “Many colleges say that they meet 100 percent of financial need of all students but you hear so many stories about people drowning in student debt even in their forties. It seems really deceptive because technically the college determines what is considered ‘meeting a student’s financial need’ is.”

The allocation of funds and distribution methods seem stringent and leave behind many deserving candidates. For some students, they may also have come to the realization that their parents would not be able to pay for their education and must look at other options. Others have to narrow their list to fit given parameters in terms of what they can afford.

As expressed by Nona Aronowitz of NBC News, middle class includes a diverse group of people with different economic backgrounds. The average income in the United States is $64,000, and these families typically pay around $6,000 a year.

Senior Mia Habib said, “Throughout the process of college applications, I have had to primarily choose cheaper, in-state public schools because I will be attending school at the same time as my brother and sister. While I apply for undergrad, my brother is applying for his masters, and my sister is applying for her PhD, so my parents decided I had to specify my options towards the cheaper in-state schools to be able to somewhat pay for my siblings’ schooling. Unfortunately, for the private schools I am applying, I qualify for merit scholarships just by applying, but I don’t believe I qualify for a lot of the financial aid programs.”

Paying for college oftentimes is a determinant of getting to attend a certain institution. There are many hardships that arise, and this journey seems to be riddled with obstacles that can influence the decisions that students must make.