- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

A new study being released today on the skyrocketing cost of higher education says only five states have four-year public colleges that low-income students can afford without financial aid.
In a third of all states, low-income students need loans even to attend some two-year community colleges, the study found.
The findings of the year-old Lumina Foundation for Education have sparked sharp criticism from higher education groups.
The foundation rated nearly 3,000 colleges and universities, and said that while at least half the public four-year schools in 40 states are financially manageable for median-income students, those students often need loans.
Only Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky and Wyoming offer four-year public colleges that are affordable to students from low-income backgrounds, it said.
Critics have complained that the study flies in the face of reality: 15 million people from all income levels attend college at two- and four-year schools. Furthermore, they have charged, the study risks discouraging those who might benefit most from a college degree.
But Lumina's vice president for research, Jerry Davis, said he had hoped that by focusing on the hardships imposed by paying for college, the study would encourage higher education officials to help secure more state and federal aid for students.
"We're saying students and families must make inordinate financial sacrifices to attend those schools," Mr. Davis said. The struggle to afford college leads some to quit, he said.
The study arrives as the recession is driving up both the demand for college as people look to improve their skills and resumes and the cost of attending, especially at state institutions where about 80 percent of college students are found.
The study used 1998 federal statistics on income, enrollment and financial aid, among other factors. It looked at four income groups: low- and median-income students still dependent on parents' income, and independent students aged 25-34 with low or median incomes.
Higher education groups said the study's methods were flawed and could put people off the idea of college or certain institutions.
"Enrollments go up every single year," said Terry Hartle, vice president of the American Council on Education. "If this is correct, there are a lot of people in higher education that aren't supposed to be there."
Mr. Hartle lauded Lumina's effort but said it would reinforce mistaken assumptions. Surveys find the public tends to overestimate the cost of a college education, he said.

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