Evidence is mounting suggesting that colleges offer more scholarship funds to students from high-income backgrounds than those from low-income families.
A new study by Sallie Mae showed that 36 percent of students from families with annual incomes of $100,000 or more received scholarships averaging $10,213 for the 2012-2013 school year. Of students from low-income families with annual incomes of $35,000 or less, 35 percent received scholarships averaging $7,237.
Another study conducted by the New America Foundation released in May found that the share of students received merit aid at public colleges more than doubled between the 1995-96 and 2007-08 school years, rising from 8 percent to 18 percent. In private colleges, the percentage rose from 24 percent to 44 percent.
However, at all colleges in the United States, the percentage of students receiving need-based scholarships saw minimal difference.
Stephen Burd, author of the New America Foundation study, believes that the problem stems from the universities’ quests to increase their revenues and published rankings.
“With their relentless pursuit of prestige and revenue, the nation’s public and private four-year colleges and universities are in danger of shutting down what has long been a pathway to the middle class,” he said.
In certain second-tier schools, financial aid is used to attract highly qualified students that may not have otherwise chosen to attend the university. These students are offered aid regardless of their need for scholarship money.
Additionally, the New America study reported that “10 percent of college admissions directors at four-year colleges (and nearly 20 percent of those at private liberal arts colleges) reported that they give affluent students a significant leg up in the admissions process,” perhaps as a means of securing revenue. College enrollment decreased by 2 percent in the school year just ended, causing declining admission, declining revenue, and an increasing difficulty for schools to distribute need-based aid.