Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Consequences of Academic Fund Shortages for Low-Income Black Students: The NEED Study

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Consequences of Academic Fund Shortages for Low-Income Black Students: The NEED Study

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

According to Simmons, Finlay, and Young (1992), there were 17 working people to support each retired person in the United States in the 1950s; by 1992, there were only 3 workers for each retiree. They further note that by 2030, the number of senior citizens will equal the number of teens and young adults, and that accompanying this trend of a decreasing proportion of young adults within the U.S. workforce will be increasing proportions of workers from minority groups. Without diverse participation in its educational system, the nation will surely experience the continued erosion of is competitiveness in the global economy. If the U.S. is to develop a competitive edge in this economy, it will do so largely as a function of having a competitive labor base. To develop this base, a more comprehensive system of financial assistance is needed that will expand the number of opportunities available for qualified students who wish to pursue a college education regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Since the early 1980s, increases in college tuition rates in the United States have outpaced both personal income growth and inflation. During the 1991-92 academic year, for example, the average increase in tuition and fees for the nation's four-year colleges was 12%, while the average national increase in inflation (measured by the consumer price index) was 3.4% (Evangelauf, 1991). Average college costs for that year were approximately $7,600 for public institutions and $16,300 for private institutions (Evangelauf, 1991). A 1993 report of the National Commission on Responsibilities for Financing Postsecondary Education notes that paying for college now ranks as one of the most costly investments for American families, second only to buying a home. The report further attests that during the 1980s, the cost of attending college increased 126%, twice the rate of inflation for the decade. Moreover, it alleges that state budget cuts are causing sizable tuition increases at public institutions--increases that have outpaced those in the traditionally higher priced private institutions.

Typical U.S. students today may face up to $5300 in debt their first year in a public institution (see Table I) (all Tables omitted). Thus, if the average increase in college education costs remains constant at 3% per year for the next four years, these college-goers will have to generate approximately $22,500 in order to complete a four-year degree. In addition to rising costs, financial support for needy students is also declining. Though Pell grant funding, the mainstay of federal financial assistance for higher education, has increased in the past decade, it has failed to match the rate of tuition hikes (National Commission on Responsibilities for Financing Postsecondary Education, 1993).

The issues involved in the development of a well-educated, well-trained workforce are many. Over the last few years, much attention has been given, and appropriately so, to assessing the quality of higher education in the U.S.. Very little attention, however, has been directed to the elimination of nonacademic factors that negatively affect educational opportunity. These factors often manifest themselves as poor academic performance or discontinuation of educational pursuits. Because minority group members, particularly Black Americans, are disproportionately represented among the lower socioeconomic sectors of society, minority group students are disproportionately included in the ranks of those for whom economic disadvantages masquerade as educational deficiencies.

According to Fraser (1989), the achievement of academic goals offers the potential for immeasurable benefit to minority youth from low-income families. However, because these families generally do not have large sums of money saved for college expenses, their children are most often forced to seek additional financial support via educational loans and/or employment while in school. …

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