Ambitious Americans struggle to pay fees

May 10, 2002

The cost of college tuition is increasing at a time when a college education is becoming more important to Americans - and when more Americans are likely to have difficulty paying for it - according to a new report.

Losing Ground points out that the greatest tuition increases occur when family income, and the economy, are in the worst shape.

"The steepest increases in tuition have come during times of the greatest economic hardship," said William Doyle, senior analyst and manager of the study, which was conducted by the California-based independent, nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

But tuition has been rising steadily, even during boom times. The lowest-income American families with children in college spend 25 per cent of their income on tuition, up from 6 per cent in 1980.

The report says that federal and state spending on financial aid has not kept pace.

Loans account for 58 per cent of financial aid, meaning that students at all income levels are borrowing more to pay for college, and are graduating deeper in debt.

The average real income of workers without a college degree has fallen, while the income advantage of those who graduate from college has increased. "Just as college opportunity has become indispensable, it also has become less affordable," Mr Doyle said.

The NCPPHE said that nearly 70 per cent of Americans regarded a college education as important as a high school education used to be. But 70 per cent worried about the cost.


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