NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 13, 2006

Higher education just got more expensive, says Newsweek. Despite the cost, enrollment by students with modest incomes has grown significantly since 1982, says economist Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst for the College Board. Nevertheless, the attendance gap between high-school graduates with money and those without is huge. However, more than cost may be at work.

But taking cost first, here's what's up for the next school year, says Newsweek:

  • Starting July 1, up to $750 will be added to Pell grants (given to low income students) for students who complete a "rigorous" high-school curriculum, up to $1,300 for second-year Pell grant students who earn a 3.0 average, and up to $4,000 for juniors and seniors if they major in math, science, technology, engineering or certain foreign languages and keep their 3.0.
  • Today's variable rates are changing to fixed rates for new government-backed student loans, and students will be allowed to borrow a little more -- $3,500 for freshmen (up $875 from last year).
  • Students with several student loans can convert them into a single debt with a fixed interest rate; they'll pay the weighted average of the loans they consolidate, and rates rise July 1.

The raging debate in student-aid circles today is whether money is the worst of the barriers facing the poor. "No," says James Heckman, a professor at the University of Chicago and a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. Among well-prepared students, he finds that the poor enroll at almost the same rate as the rich. For those who can't raise enough for tuition, targeted grants would be ideal. But to prepare and motivate larger number of poor kids, the most effective college prep may be enrichment courses for infants and toddlers.

Source: Jane Bryant Quinn, "New Math for College Costs," Newsweek, March 13, 2006.


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