Caption: How will this baby box turtle pay for college?
In "Paradise Park," a low budget 1990s film made in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia, one of the characters says that "Education is the one thing the Man can't take away from you."
A great deal of evidence indicates that access to higher education is the single best way for individuals permanently escape poverty.
According to a press release issued late last month by the Census Bureau:
Adults age 18 and older with a bachelor's degree earned an average of $51,554 in 2004, while those with a high school diploma earned $28,645, according to new tabulations released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Those without a high school diploma earned an average of $19,169.
Unfortunately, public financial aid programs are now covering less and less of the cost for higher ed. The Ecomomic Policy Institute reports that
It is becoming increasingly difficult for students to obtain financial assistance to attend college. Federal grants are covering less of the tuition bill than they used to, forcing students to take on more expensive debt.
The College Board reported that Pell grants, one of the largest sources of federal help for low-income college students, have not kept up with college prices. As the chart below shows, Pell Grants now cover only about a third of the average costs at a four-year public school, compared with 42% in 2001-02 and 57% in 1985-86. The same trends can be seen for four-year private schools, where the grants now cover only 14% of expenses, compared to 26% in 1985-86. The Congress last increased the maximum annual Pell grant in 2003-04, when it was increased by a mere $50 to $4,050. Meanwhile, college costs (average published tuition, fees, and room and board (TFRB) charges) at four-year public colleges are up by about 25% from five years ago.
Students are increasingly forced to resort to loans to pay for college and often enter the workforce already hampered by a heavy load of debt.
An obvious policy conclusion for people who care about a strong domestic economy and shared prosperity would be to increase aid and access so that everyone can get as much education as they can stand.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: POST-SECONDARY