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Friday December 2nd

State cuts hurting low-income students

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The Center for American Progress found that 38 states cut the amount of spending per student during the fiscal period of 2008 to 2012, said Elizabeth Baylor, associate director of postsecondary education at the center.

The two- and four-year college attendance rate of low-income students dropped from 55.9 percent in 2008 to 50.9 percent in 2012. The state has cut universities’ funds by about 5 percent, according to the study.

Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of UNC’s Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, said in an email that cuts have had an impact on student financial aid.

“Though we have experienced some loss of state grant funding in North Carolina, the state has worked hard to limit these cuts,” Ort said.

She said UNC has one of the best need-based aid policies among all public universities in the country. The University practices need-blind admission, which is the method of admitting students without first looking at their ability to pay.

“Carolina is a place that lives out our professed commitment to access and affordability,” Ort said.

Jay Schalin, director of policy analysis for the right-leaning John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said the lower number of low-income students enrolled at universities is caused by the high cost of college and the decreasing guarantee that a degree will lead to a job.

“I believe that there is a greater awareness among low-income people that higher education is not an automatic key to a higher income level,” he said. “If they go down the college route, they might be worse off than if they get a job.”

He also said the decreasing number of students attending community college cannot be blamed on families’ incomes because disadvantaged students can generally attend community college for free.

Baylor said states can apply for a grant matched by the federal government to combat the education cuts.

“The federal government should use its power to encourage states to reinvest in higher education,” she said.

The authors also recommend that states put an emphasis on improving performance, allowing students to complete their education on time and successfully.

Ort said the Carolina Covenant Scholarship has helped more UNC students receive federal Pell Grants. The number of students eligible for the grants has jumped from 13 percent to 22 percent since the scholarship was first offered.

“One of the most important things that higher education has traditionally provided is the ability for folks to have economic mobility and get jobs that provide a real wage bonus,” Baylor said.


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