Study Says Community College Students Need More Financial Aid

By Staff
May 14, 2009

A new study indicates that a significant number of students who attend community colleges full-time have a harder time affording their educational expenses than students enrolled at four-year schools.

The analysis, conducted by the Institute for College Access and Success, was based on information from the U.S. Education Department's 2007-8 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. The study concentrated on full-time undergraduates, 24 percent of whom attend community colleges.

Although tuition for community college is widely viewed as a bargain, the analysis points out that such a perception is misleading. It is true that tuitions are lower at community colleges, and community college students are more likely to receive federal Pell Grants. However, students at such institutions are less likely to receive state grants, college grants and work-study opportunities.

As a result, says the study, 80 percent of community college students still have financial need after receiving aid, compared to 54 percent of students at public four-year institutions and 53 percent of those enrolled at private four-year schools. Moreover, community college students face a financial gap of $5,277 after aid is received-about the same as students at public four-year schools, who have an average gap of $5,286.

Moreover, the analysis indicated that since lower-income students are reluctant to borrow for college, far fewer community college students take out federal Stafford loans, despite being eligible to do so. Only 29 percent of community college students took advantage of the loans, compared to 72 percent at public four-year schools and 80 percent at private four-year schools. Moreover, those community college students who did borrow would often turn to private loans first, suggesting that students might not even be aware that federal loans-which are far safer and more affordable--are available.

"There is a double standard where students at four-year colleges are expected to spend most of their time on academics, while community college students are expected to juggle their classes around their work," pointed out Lauren Asher, the institute's acting president, who was quoted in California's Monterey County Herald. "Students at all types of colleges need to be able to focus on their studies, and they can only do that if they receive sufficient aid."

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