It’s no secret that financing a college education is getting
tougher. College costs have skyrocketed over the past decade or so, and there’s
no relief in sight. Average tuition at four-year colleges will increase 7
percent this school year, double the rate of inflation. Student aid is not
increasing fast enough to plug the growing gap between tuition and family
finances. In addition, there is a growing number of older students entering
college today. These students have families that they need to support. I know,
because I am a family man who has returned to school. I wish to finish my
degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The only problems I face are
financial in nature. It is with this in mind that I set about this research. The
not so simple question: Is financial aid available to older students, and if so,
how do they go about obtaining it?
The Cost Of Education
The cost of higher education varies by type of institution.
Tuition is highest at private 4-year institutions, and lowest at public 2-year
institutions. The private 4-year colleges nearly quadrupled their average
tuition rates between 1975 and 1996. For private 4-year colleges, tuition and
fees for the 1995-96 academic year averaged about $15,400, compared with about
$5006 at public 4-year colleges. The cost of attending an institution of higher
education includes not only tuition and fees, however, but also books and
supplies, transportation, personal expenses and, sometimes, room and board.
Although tuition and fees generally are substantially lower at public
institutions than at private ones, the other student costs are about the same.
According to MS-Encarta94,”the average cost for tuition, fees, and room and
board for the 1995-96 academic year at private 4-year colleges was about $20,165.
At public 4-year colleges the average combined cost was about $9290″ (Encarta94).
The cost of attending RIT is approximately $15700 per year. This
does not include room and board, or books, and supplies . This cost falls in
line with the national average. However , according to Rachel Shuman of the RIT
Financial Aid Department,”the increase in cost at RIT was 4.8 percent for the
1996-97 academic year over the 1995-96 academic year.” This falls 2.2 percent
below the national average for 4 year private institutions. Still, $15700 is a
lot of dollars for an unemployed family man or woman with little or no income.
The Cost Of Living Factor
Though the Cost Of Living is not directly related to tuition it
is still a major player in the decision making process. Is it possible to
maintain a family financial structure while paying for an education? The cost of
a mortgage, or rent, and other bills that are associated with living adds up to
many thousands of dollars per year. These costs in addition to what the tuition,
books, and supplies total are expected, and have to be dealt with.
The financial burden alone can seem over-whelming to some. But
let us consider what the total cost of living and attending a four year private
institution are. The Bureau of Census statistics for the County of Monroe
indicate “that the approximate average income for a family of four is $50964.
The poverty level for a family of four is approximately $15455″. These are
statistics calculated for the 1995 calendar year. No newer statistics were
available. With these statistics in mind we can then determine the financial
model we must follow. This model will determine what the total yearly outlay a
family of four must shoulder in order to send a person to RIT.
The Financial Burden
First and foremost a family has to live. The Census data
indicates that the minimum a family must earn is “a poverty level income.” So,
let’s assume a family needs $16000 per year for living expenses. The cost of
attending RIT is $15651 per year. Books and supplies are approximately $1200 per
year. Finally, travel expenses will be approximately $500 per year. I am
assuming that one spouse will be working to cover the living expenses. So, I am
excluding medical and dental costs. These costs are partially or fully covered
by an employer. In the event they are not let us include them in the poverty
scenario, which basically means the family must pay the costs.
The total amount of funds needed are $17700 the first year. If
you increase that number by 4.8% each year thereafter you can come up with the
projected amount for each school year.The $17700 figure remains the obstacle to
overcome. This cost has to be