The following is a summary of a presentation on College Affordability delivered by GBPI Higher Education Analyst Jennifer Lee.
Increasing college completion among low-income students is a necessity for Georgia and a higher education goal for GBPI. Financial challenges create a large barrier to college completion for many students, particularly for students of color and first-generation students.
There are 85 percent more low-income students enrolled in the university system than ten years ago. Increased enrollment from low-income students is not inherently problematic, but schools and state policies must be able to support all students to graduation successfully. Though college costs have increased for everyone, even small cost increases can pose a big hurdle for the lowest-income students.
High college costs push more students to borrow larger amounts. College debt is more likely and high-risk for African-American students, who have much less family wealth and resources to rely on to help finance their educations.
One critical factor in increasing college costs is the reduction in the share of higher education funding that comes from the state. Though Georgia has made gains since the recession, the state has made a long-term shift from shouldering most of the costs of public higher education (75 percent) to about half, leading colleges to charge more in tuition and fees.
The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute supports multiple strategies to tackle college affordability, including continuing to strengthen institutional funding to keep tuition and fees stable, maximizing federal financial aid, increasing state financial aid, and using Dual Enrollment and transfer opportunities to decrease the total degree cost for students.