Colleges Spend More On Rich Students, Less On Poor

Source: Lynn O’Shaughnessy / MoneyWatch / CBS News

A common misperception among many Americans is that both the rich and the poor can afford to pay for college. Under this view, affluent families have the money to pay the full price, while low-income households can rely on government grants and assistance from colleges. It’s the middle-class families that get clobbered financially.

Except that this scenario isn’t true. The middle class is indeed struggling to pay for college — but so are poorer families. Federal data shows that states, as well as colleges and universities, have been trimming the aid they provide to lower-income students for years. By contrast, schools are funneling more money to affluent students.

Back in the mid 1990s, only eight percent of undergraduates at state universities received so-called merit aid, which is money students receive regardless of their financial need. More than two decades later, the number has risen to 18 percent.

The merit aid priorities are even more glaring at private institutions. In the earlier period, 24 percent of students received merit aid; these days, roughly 44 percent do regardless of whether they need or not.

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