Federal Panel Estimates Millions of Qualified Low-Income Students Have Lost the Opportunity for Higher Education

An independent federal commission established by Congress and the U.S. Department of Education has concluded that hundreds of thousands of qualified students are not enrolling in college because of the cost of higher education and insufficient financial aid. The committee’s report says that in the 1990s there were between 800,000 and 1.6 million low-income students who were academically qualified for college and wanted a four-year college education but were unable to earn a bachelor’s degree because of the cost of higher education and the low level of financial aid available to offset the costs. The committee estimates that this decade there will be 1.4 million to 2.4 million low-income students who qualify for and want to go to college but who will be unable to do so because of financial factors. Blacks are a disproportionate segment of this low-income group.

The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance is made up of three members appointed by the House of Representatives, three by the Senate, and five by the secretary of education. Members serve three-year terms. The commission has been in existence since 1988. Given GOP control over both houses of Congress and the Executive Branch, the Advisory Committee cannot even remotely be considered a left-wing think tank.

Its recommendations include increasing need-based aid from federal, state, and institutional sources, restraining price increases in higher education, and moving away from the trend toward more merit-based financial aid.

Readers who are interested in downloading the report, entitled Mortgaging Our Future: How Financial Barriers to College Undercut America’s Global Competitiveness, can click here.