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College: Accessing the Damage

by Stacy Johnson


This year, the increase in college tuition has brought the gap between income and college costs to an all time high, leaving more families assessing the different types of financial assistance available and worried about how they will help to provide a future for their children.

The country has been moving in this direction for several years. At a senate hearing three years ago, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) criticized escalating college tuition, noting that it had more than doubled at both public and private schools over the past twenty years. He also noted that four-year college tuition increased and average of more than 110 percent over inflation since the ‘80s.

Middle-class families in particular complain about the lack of resources available to them and the economic crunch they are placed in. In a Washington DC poll taken in October of 1999, 63 percent of Americans with school-age children worried excessively about the cost of attending college.

It is the “middle class that suffers most,” said Naima Mtu, a graduate of Cornell University. The government needs to “evaluate each condition more thoroughly,” Mtu added.

“I am paying an average of $32,000 a year…the only thing that was available to me was loans,” said Joy Traiwoe, the mother of an undergraduate at Fordham University. “That is how it is for most middle class families…they are not providing middle class families with the funds that they need.”

Even though a family may be considered middle class, they may have other children who have just been through college or children who are approaching college age, making it hard for them to afford the college tuition without help from the government.

While some families get zero or little help from the government, others receive a substantial amount through federal grants.

“I was able to get enough grants to cover her tuition,” said Lynette Robinson, about her daughter attending Fordham University. She also has another daughter on her way to college.

“It is a lot of work…(I) approach it with a positive attitude,” said Robinson, who received most of her financial assistance through private foundations. “You need it all, federal and private.”

“For undergraduate I received a lot of financial assistance…Cornell paid for about 30 percent of the tuition, while the government paid most of the rest,” said Mtu, who went through private foundations and the federal government to pay for an education at Cornell University.

In the year 2000, colleges, federal and state governments reported providing a record of $68 billion in student aid. Before leaving office, Clinton instituted a list of initiatives to help families better afford college. This list included a loan forgiveness program, an interest rate reduction, and an interest rebate.

Many agree that there should be changes in the federal system. “There should be a cap on tuition. It is increasingly growing. This is a country that believes in literacy, yet, it makes it makes tuition so (high)…it is promoting illiteracy,” said Traiwoe.

“They need to give tax breaks…they need to allow families to write off the tuition on their income tax,” said Twaiwoe.

While there are mixed reviews about the amount of financial assistance available, may agree that the process is strenuous and also that “the sooner, the better,” because the more effort one puts out, the more of a positive outcome they will receive.


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