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Kept out of college because of poverty

August 9, 2002 | Page 2

HUNDREDS OF thousands of high school seniors won't be going to college this fall--not because they aren't smart enough or didn't work hard, but because they can't afford to. That's the conclusion of a new report drafted by Federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

According to the study, more than 400,000 qualified high school students won't be able to attend four-year colleges this fall--and nearly 170,000 won't ever attend any college--because the cost is too great.

Researchers found that almost half of college-qualified low-income students were too poor to attend a four-year college this year. Almost a quarter will never attend any college at all for this reason.

Why? On average, according to the study, families of low-income students (with less than $25,000 in annual income) attending four-year colleges and universities had to fill a "gap" of $3,800 a year in tuition and fees not covered by grants or financial aid. The study's conclusion was blunt: "For these students, the promise of a college education is an empty one."

What's more, the problem is likely to get worse in the coming years. "[T]he financial barriers to a college education have risen sharply due to shifts in policies and priorities at the federal, state and institutional levels, resulting in a shortage of student aid, and, in particular, need-based grant aid, as well as rising college tuition," reads the report.

So what is George "My daddy bought my way into Yale" Bush going to do about this obscenity? Not much. The self-proclaimed education president is increasing funding for Pell grants--the federal financial aid program for low-income college students--but by such a tiny amount that the final total will actually represent a cut because of the large increase in students applying for the grants.

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