Report: Cost Puts Many Public 4-Year Institutions Out of Reach for Low-Income Students


Have low-income students been effectively shut out of public four-year institutions of higher education?

A new report by the National College Access Network (NCAN) examines this question and the results aren’t pretty.

Only 25 percent of residential public four-year institutions meet NCAN’s measure of affordability, data show.

NCAN compared the cost of attendance at an institution with students’ average total grant aid from federal, state, and institutional resources; the institution’s average federal loan amount; the average Pell Grant recipient’s expected family contribution; and an estimate of students’ earnings from part-time work during the school year and full-time summer work.

Using this metric, students could not afford to attend 412 out of the 551 residential public four-year institutions in the US and Puerto Rico.

“When I started in this work in 2004, I could confidently say that if we did our jobs right and our students did their work as well, then paying for college wasn’t a barrier to their success,” Traci Kirtley, a NACAC member and chief program officer at College Possible, told NCAN.

“That’s no longer true today. Even if students do everything right, many in 2018 are finding that they still can’t afford to pursue a college degree.”

Read the full report here.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at

2 thoughts on “Report: Cost Puts Many Public 4-Year Institutions Out of Reach for Low-Income Students”

  1. I used to think the same thing. I used to think that students in the US did not go to college because they preferred to do something else. It is shocking to learn that the real reason is because they can not afford it. I never knew so many universities were out of their reach financially. Thank you for bringing this out.

  2. I always tell low income students to apply to private institutions and state school as a safety. Public schools do not care if you can afford it because they’re already considered “affordable”. Through federal funding students can make a public institution more affordable but at the expense of many loans. More and more private institutions are becoming the preferred choice for low income students due to deep discounting and debt free incentives.

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