Nationwide, young people struggle with affording their education. For many low-income students, obtaining college degrees comes with financial hardships that some might not be aware of.
Food insecurity and homelessness among college students is on the rise, and many believe that financial aid institutions are not prepared to handle these issues.
At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of Higher Education Policy at Temple University presented about the cost of higher education in the Mabel Brown Room.
Goldrick-Rab is is also a leader in research of the intersection among economic insecurity, college affordability and a failing financial aid system.
Keene State College students filled the Mabel Brown Room in equal numbers as faculty and community members.
Dr. Goldrick-Rab didn’t just come to KSC to speak, she said in the presentation.
She was there to “recruit for a movement” about making college more affordable. While speaking, she reflected on policymakers and the importance of painting a true picture of college students nationwide. Dr. Goldrick-Rab critiqued the lawmakers who don’t spend time on college campuses, and how they depict college students as selfish and entitled.
She told the true story of a young woman named Chloe who was trying to afford an associate’s degree at a community college in Wisconsin.
Her expected family contribution from the FAFSA was 10 percent of her mother’s meager income, and Chloe didn’t want to take out a high loan to go to school. Chloe tried to work to make ends meet while attending the college, but eventually dropped out after being put on financial probation.
After Dr. Goldrick-Rab told the story, the room was quiet and solemn. “If this story took place in New Hampshire,” she said, “the situation would’ve been even worse.”
Dr. Goldrick-Rab projected charts about the increase in college costs and the stagnation of financial aid money nationwide, which contributed to Chloe’s story. Following that, she focused on the school at which she was speaking.
She showed calculations of the cost of attendance at KSC, and how little this school’s financial aid office provides to their students.
The chart she made showed that it takes 56 hours a week of minimum wage work ($7.25 per hour) to cover the cost of attendance at KSC. This is after the average financial aid package KSC offers.
“It’s very easy to be pessimistic… but these are easy problems to fix,” Dr. Goldrick-Rab told the audience. She continued to play her slideshow, emphasizing the importance of campus resources to help students in financial trouble.
Dr. Goldrick-Rab also told the audience that the students at colleges and universities are the ones who are the most aware of issues among their peers, and that their student fees shouldn’t rise to try to solve these problems.
Senior Aaron Bartlett attended this program for his Health Promotion Practice class. He’s an in-state student. In his opinion, college affordability isn’t as bad in New Hampshire as it is in other states.
Bartlett said that private colleges and out-of-state choices elsewhere in New England are much more difficult to afford. He said that while KSC isn’t “astronomically high” like other schools, people still have a hard time paying for it.
Allison Gioielli, a senior at KSC, came with her peers because she was interested in the subject of affordability. She is from Massachusetts, and she said that out-of-state tuition at KSC is very expensive.
She agreed with Bartlett, though, that higher education in general is expensive. Gioielli said she knows students first-hand who struggle to afford school and living expenses. She said she is friends with someone who has “gone from seven [in the morning] until nine [at night], working just to be able to afford rent.”
Gioielli’s friend’s struggles are not unique, and that night’s presentation reflected the issues that arise from financial insecurity among college students.
The presentation was sponsored by the Open Education Collaborative through the University System of New Hampshire.
Abby Shepherd can be contacted at email@example.com