College Acceptance Season Can Bring Financial Worries
It’s spring and college seniors across the country are hearing from college admissions offices. We’re all familiar with the videos of students checking their computers, surrounded by parents, siblings and grandparents, phone cameras in hands, waiting to see if their student has been accepted.
For too many of our students, those joyous moments are overshadowed by the worry that sets in when they realize how much college will really cost. Over the past several weeks I’ve had many conversations with students and parents who have no idea how they will swing paying for their tuition, room, and board.
College Costs Have Outstripped Available Aid
Nearly seven years ago, we launched the Achieve Atlanta Scholarship out of the recognition that the costs of college have greatly outstripped the aid available to students from low- and middle-income families.
When the federal Pell Grant was created in the 1970s, the maximum award was approximately $5,500 a year, and it covered more than 75% of the average cost of attendance at a 4-year public university. Today, nearly 50 years later, the Pell Grant has only increased to $6,495. But the average cost of attendance at a four-year public university hovers around $25,000 a year.
The Pell Grant (which 96% of our Scholars receive) now covers less than 30% of college costs. And, because Georgia is one of only two states in the country that do not provide need-based aid for students, college is far from affordable for Georgia’s students from low-income backgrounds.
Georgia Considers Offering Need-based College Financial Aid
That’s why we’ve been closely watching this Georgia state legislative session and House Bill 1435, which would provide some financial aid to college students who are near graduation. We think the legislation would create a strong start to a comprehensive need-based program in Georgia and are working with fellow advocates to champion the bill during the last weeks of the legislative session.
Achieve Atlanta Scholarship Fills a Need
On our end, we will continue to provide the Achieve Atlanta Scholarship, a need-based scholarship to Atlanta Public Schools seniors. This fall, we’ll have nearly 900 Scholars who have graduated college and earned their degrees – and that number keeps rising.
Let’s keep working for the day when we’re no longer celebrating the lucky few who get to go to college, but rather a community that lifts up young people and supports them on their path to thriving, opportunity-filled lives.