Report: High-performing but low-income students left out

Jane Thomas’s daughter studies at Emory University where annual tuition nears $50,000.

Thomas identifies her income as “comfortable” but said this week her daughter will pay her own college debts.

“Whatever she didn’t pay off, she’ll have to work off, because we want her to have some responsibility,” Thomas said.

Thomas is one of millions of Americans facing rising tuition costs, especially at elite, private, and Ivy League universities. That means many low-income Americans are being forced out of an elite higher-education system that they can’t afford.

A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “the vast majority of very high-achieving students who are low-income do not apply to any selective college or university.”

According to the study, this trend occurs when high-achieving students search for colleges in the range of their income, rather than of their achievement.

But, colleges have been trying to incorporate students from all backgrounds and economic statuses.

In 2004, the eight Ivy League universities underwent a financial makeover when schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale decided to provide free tuition to those families that made under $60,000 a year.

College money

Photo illustration: TaxCredits.net

But still, at five of the eight Ivy League’s there are more students from the top 1 percent of income ($630K+), than the bottom 60 percent (<$65K).

It seems that America might be one of the only countries putting students into crippling debt. Jane McTaggart from Brisbane, Australia recalled that when she went to college it was free.

Although annual tuition in Australia is now $20,000, students “don’t have to pay back their debts until they make a certain income,” McTaggart stated.

McTaggart also stated, “I find it quite disturbing that you have so much debt for young people.”

College costs in America are increasing as the average tuition for a private institution has racked up to $35,074 for four year schools.

These costs aren’t encouraging low-income students to choose elite universities and are another reason for less low-income, high-achieving students attending college.

Although Jane Thomas is able to pay for her daughter’s tuition at Emory University, she is still skeptical of the efforts being made by colleges to provide financial aid for low-income students.

She stated, “I don’t think they’re doing enough.”