Is the financial ‘safety school’ a thing of the past?

Noting that low-income students applying to college benefit from a unique kind of “safety school”—one where they will not only gain acceptance but also will be able to afford attendance—an op-ed in Inside Higher Ed says that very few institutions check both boxes.

The National College Access Network (NCAN), a non-profit organization that aims to support college access and success, created an “affordability measure” that shows whether a low-income student “can reasonably expect to successfully piece together all of the possible sources for funding a four-year degree in today’s public higher education system,” according to the network’s director of policy and advocacy. In applying that criteria, NCAN calculates that just 25 percent of the 551 public, four-year institutions with residential housing are affordable for an average first-time, full-time Pell Grant recipient who is working in a minimum-wage job.

Asserting that a four-year degree “is the surest path to the middle class” for low-income students and students of color, NCAN says it hopes this analysis “serves as a wake-up call to federal and state policymakers” that the affordability gap is a pervasive issue that requires policy change.

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