The increasing cost of living in the U.S. is not only affecting housing, food and gasoline prices, but also educational services. Several colleges and universities nationwide are being dealt a decisive blow by an ailing economy, while many students are being denied sufficient loans and financial aid to fund their education.
CSUN students applying for financial aid are encountering obstacles in being fully eligible for assistance. There are key factors contributing to this lack of financial availability. The number of students that need the help outweighs the amount of funding the university has.
CSUN Provost Harry Hellenbrand stated in his online study, ‘Groundhog Meets Feezilla: Aid and Fees Playing in a Theatre Near You!’, that ‘over the years, the percentage of the general fund that supports higher education in California has declined by more than 30 percent. Increasingly, the general fund (where state revenues collect) relies on a volatile source, personal income tax.’
In discussing the current financial aid situation at CSUN, the study also explains, ‘every time the CSU raises fees, it sets aside between 25 percent and 33 percent of it for aid. At CSUN, as at many other urban MA universities (universities that offer master’s degrees) at least 50 percent of the students receive federal, state, and/or local aid’hellip;For the CSU in ’05-06 and each year thereafter, COA (Cost Of Attendance) exceeded five billion dollars, while fees topped one billion.’
Hellenbrand concluded in the study that ‘enough direct aid was available to cover over 80 percent of that cost; enough aid and recognized loan programs were available to cover nearly twice that cost, but only one-third of estimated COA. There is the rub. Instead of lowering everyone’s fees, policymakers have tried to reduce COA for some students who meet needy criteria.’
Those most affected by the lack of funding are in the middle class sector.
‘It’s tended to work that the students who are at the lower range get more aid,’ Hellenbrand said in an interview. ‘The low middle class threshold, around $25,000-$40,000 yearly income is being hurt the most.’
In the September issue of Money magazine, Penelope Wang wrote, ‘For more than two decades, colleges and universities across the country have been jacking up tuition at a faster rate than costs have risen on any other major product or service’mdash;four times faster than the overall inflation rate and faster even than increases in the price of gasoline or health care. The result: After adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439 percent since 1982.’
Working class families are burdened with falling into the middle of the social ladder where they are not in utter poverty, yet not comfortably wealthy either.
Hakeem Davis, an urban studies major, has his fair share of doubts about his current studies and how his future might be affected.
‘Financial aid was denied,’ Davis said. ‘I had to accept a private loan. I had to get an educational loan outside of what the school would be able to offer. I know I’m going to have a good amount of debt when I graduate. I think universities are capitalizing on what sells instead of what prepares us for our futures.’
Lili Vidal, CSUN’s director of financial aid and scholarships, offers alternative methods available to students in need.
‘I always like to recommend scholarships,’ Vidal said. ‘Donors are offering scholarships to go into certain careers. There are a lot of different kinds of scholarships. It’s more economical to apply for scholarships than working.’
Hellenbrand’s study can be viewed in its entirety at http://www.csun.edu/academic.affairs/feezilla.html.