A major stress for college students and their families is figuring out how they will pay for college and its sizable price tag. With the rising cost of education in Texas, many students fall into a sort of “financial aid gap.” What this means is that their families make too much for financial aid, but not enough to pay out-of-pocket for college. This is a major issue for some Texas State students.
According to Texas State’s financial aid and scholarships page, the average cost of nine months of schooling in 2018-2019 for an in-state student taking 15 credit hours, whether living on or off campus, is $23,770. If the in-state student lives at home with a parent, the cost lowers to $17,410 for nine months. Non-resident students are estimated to pay between $29,870 and $36,230 for the time frame.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board states that of the more than one million students enrolled at Texas institutions, 54.9 percent use grant aid, 44.2 percent use loans and less than one percent rely on work study. In 2016, $9.3 billion was used for both undergraduate and graduate financial aid. The Board also reports that the average amount needed to cover the gap between the cost of education and student financial resources is $6,892 for two year institutions, $6,645 for public universities and $7,382 for private institutions.
The amount of aid a student is given is calculated by FAFSA using the Expected Family Contribution formula. However, this formula does not account for costs such as retirement and other expenses the family might encounter. So even with financial aid, many students still face having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket or taking out predatory student loans. If a student needs $30,000 to cover the cost of college, and the Expected Family Contribution is $26,000, then the student will only be able to receive up to $4,000 in financial aid.
If financial aids needs are unmet, does the responsibility lie on the student, the family or the institution? Texas State offers a number of scholarships through their website, as well as the Bobcat Promise, a program that waives tuition and mandatory fees for entering freshmen taking 15 credit hours. To qualify for the promise, however, the student’s family adjusted gross income must not exceed $35,000. There are also countless scholarship opportunities available all across Texas through various programs and other private institutions.
This cannot be the solution for all students within the financial aid gap, however. Scholarships are not guaranteed easy money and it is unlikely that a student will receive every scholarship that they apply for. If the student does not qualify for financial aid, then it is likely that they will also not qualify for the Bobcat Promise and are left to their own devices to find a way to cover these costs. Transfer students are not taken into consideration at all when looking at the Bobcat Promise.
It is a hassle to have to apply and reapply for scholarships every year, as well. This can add an unnecessary strain to Texas State students. Some may even find themselves facing the reality that they cannot afford an education at Texas State and end up returning home or to cheaper community colleges. Students who are priced out of an education should not accept the fact that they fell into a financial aid gap, but there is not much else to do when students cannot even turn to their institutions for aid.
With the average student loan debt in Texas in 2015 at $27,324, there are obvious consequences coming from the financial aid gap crisis. Students’ educations are put into jeopardy whenever they cannot find a way to pay to learn at their selected universities and colleges. Texas State offers some solutions to this crisis, but those solutions are not sufficient or inclusive enough. More aid should be available to help the population of our student body who is hurt by the gap created through financial aid.
– Carissa Liz Castillo is an English senior