Study: Indiana colleges too costly

Low-income, dependent students may not be able to afford higher education.

Ball State University was ranked unaffordable for dependent, low-income students in a study by the Lumina Foundation for Education, a private foundation which studies issues in education.

The study, which was released on Jan. 7, reported that if a college is unaffordable, it doesn't mean students cannot enroll.

"However, it is very likely that many students attend at serious financial inconvenience - if not extraordinary financial sacrifice," the Foundation's Web site reported.

Bob Zellers, the director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at Ball State, said he disagrees.

"We are an affordable public institution and are meeting the needs of our students," he said. "But it is tougher to meet freshman needs."

The reason for this difficulty is that the amount of money the university can loan out per freshman is limited to $2,625.

"(Financial aid) is an allocation of scarce resources," he said. "There are not enough grant dollars to give to the students who need them."

Ball State was ranked affordable with loans in the three other categories of the study: dependent, median-income students, independent, low-income students, and independent, median-income students.

According to the study, which evaluated nearly 3,000 colleges and universities in the nation, there are only five states which have 4-year colleges that are financially accessible to low-income students: Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky and Wyoming.

The Lumina Foundation for Education used 1998 federal statistics on income, enrollment and financial aid to conduct the study. More recent data was not available.

"Low-income, independent students have fewer options," said Sarah Murray-Plumer, director of communications for the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation. "But attending college is still possible. We are not here to offer a wholesale solution. Improving access is going to take some innovation."

The intent of Lumina's study was to inspire dialogue among higher-education leaders and lawmakers in Congress to possibly insure more state and federal aid for students, Murray-Plumer said.

During the 2000-2001 academic year, 60 percent of college students used $52,064,285 in federal loans, and the Indiana Higher Education Award granted $7,024,000.


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