As tuition continues to rise, low-income students and their families are having to pay a disproportionate amount of those cost increases compared to their peers in higher income levels, according to federal data analyzed by education journalists.
The Tuition Tracker created by Dallas Morning News, The Hechinger Report and the Education Writers Association uses data from the Department of Education to show what students in over 3,000 colleges and universities pay in tuition based on their families income level.
According to an article in Dallas News, the data shows a widening gap between country’s rich and poor, making it increasingly difficult for low-income students to go to college.
The University of Oregon offers one of the most affordable net price tuition rates (cost of attendance minus grant and scholarship aid) in the state for low-income students.
Data compiled from 2011-2012 shows that families at $48,000 or lower income levels paid between $11,188 and $12,698 in tuition, well below the sticker price of $21,638. About 58 percent of freshmen of that same year received grants with an average amount of $7,074.
“There is a strong interest in keeping the university affordable,” Jim Brooks, the director of financial aid, said. “As a large state flagship institution we consider that part of our mission.”
Brooks credits the Pathway Oregon Program that caters to low-income, Pell-eligible students. The program helps to cover the cost of tuition and fees to Oregon high school students who graduated with a minimum 3.4 G.P.A and are eligible for the federal Pell grant.
The program was set up by former the Director of Financial Aid Elizabeth Bickford and Susan Lesyk from the Teaching and Learning Center after having concerns about what the UO was doing to support low-income students. Pathway was recently hailed as a model program by the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Since its inception in 2008, Pathway has grown to fund about 1,600 students. According to Brooks, the University is opening up the program to even more students as long as they meet the set requirements. The University pulls money from the general fund and fundraising from the UO’s Foundation and Development to cover the costs.
“The university has made a commitment to say that we will find the money to do this,” said Brooks.
According to an Oregonian article, tuition at UO and Portland State University is 15 percent less than Western Oregon University. Families who made less than $48,000 in income for 2011-2012 paid about $13,000 of the sticker price of $20,941. The article also points out that in the same year, high-income families that made more than $110,000 paid 96 percent of the full sticker price for tuition at UO.
“It’s difficult balancing costs and maintaining the level of education, and keeping faculty that we need in order to keep the institution where it is,” Brooks said. “We work hard at what we do and I know sometimes students don’t think we are but I promise you we are. We are very sensitive to what it costs to go here and we want the university to stay affordable to students and so we always keep that in mind.”