Tom Mortenson


Students from low income families have relatively poor prospects for earning a baccalaureate degree from college. Furthermore, while the prospects for students from higher income families improved during the 1980s, students from families earning less than $20,000 per year lost both in terms of access to higher education and completion of degree programs. This paper examines three financial aid policies that work against dependent students from low income families: (1) zeroing-out calculated negative parental contributions, (2) requiring a minimum self help expectation from students from low income families, and (3) substituting expensive financial aid (loans) for free aid (grants). These policies make college a substantially more expensive investment decision for low income students, thus denying many of them the education their higher income counterparts can afford.