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PEDAR: Executive Summary Middle Income Undergraduates: Where They Enroll and How They Pay for Their Education
Introduction
Profile of Middle Income Full-Time, Full-Year Dependent Undergraduates
Price of Attendance
Financial Need and Financial Aid
Sources of Financial Aid
Summary
Research Methodology
References
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
Financial Need and Financial Aid


Financial need is defined as student budget minus expected family contribution (EFC). EFC is the amount that the family and the student are expected to contribute toward the price of attendance, based on formulas for calculating financial aid awards.1 Virtually all families in the middle income group are expected to pay part of the price of attendance from their own resources. The amount that remains after subtracting EFC is the student's financial need. It is possible that even after all aid is awarded, some students will have unmet need.

In 1995–96, four out of five middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates (79 percent) had some financial need, compared with almost all of those in the lower income category (99 percent), and one-third of those in the higher income category. Middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates with financial need had an average of $7,785 of financial need.

Sixty-five percent of middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates received financial aid, 55 percent having financial need and 10 percent not having financial need. Overall, middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates had 31 percent of their price of attendance covered by financial aid, and more than one-half (58 percent) had unmet need after financial aid and expected family contribution (EFC).

One-third of middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates with unmet need had not applied for financial aid. Reasons given included a belief that family income was too high (32 percent) or that the family could afford to pay (48 percent). But for those who did apply for aid, but did not have their financial need met, it could mean that they and their families were making greater financial effort to attend their institution of choice.

Net price, or the difference between price of attendance and total financial aid received, is the amount of out-of-pocket expenses that students and their families must come up with to attend the colleges in which they enroll. By examining student earnings and the percentage of students with parents contributing to their college expenses, we can gain an additional perspective on how students and their families cover college expenses.

The average net price for middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates in 1995–96 was $7,867. Net price increased as price-of-attendance level increased, but average student earnings were lowest at the highest price-of-attendance level.

At the lowest price-of-attendance level, student earnings for middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates averaged $4,478, the average net price of attendance was $4,5812, and 84 percent of these students reported that their parents contributed to their college expenses.3 At the moderate price-of-attendance level, average student earnings for middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates of $3,737 covered a considerable amount of the $5,668 net price of attendance, while 88 percent of these students reported that their parents contributed to their college expenses. The amounts of parental contributions toward the net price of attendance are not known, but the data suggest that middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates who were enrolled at the lowest and moderate price-of-attendance levels could meet or exceed the net prices of attendance with their own earnings and a modest contribution from their parents. Perhaps these students attended at the lowest and moderate price-of-attendance levels in order to reduce (but not eliminate) the amount of EFC that their parents needed to contribute, or to increase their available discretionary income, or both (see Summary figure).

With a sizable gap between average net price ($7,632) and average student earnings ($3,419) for the 49 percent of middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates enrolled at the upper price-of-attendance level, 91 percent reported that their parents contributed toward expenses. EFC for middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates enrolled at this price-of-attendance level was $6,913. Thus, it appears that FTFY undergraduates attending at the upper price-of-attendance level can, on average, meet the net price of attendance through student earnings and parental contributions below EFC (see Summary figure).

For the 23 percent of middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates enrolled at the highest price-of-attendance level, the gap between net price and student earnings was $8,919, which is more than the average EFC of $7,024 for these undergraduates' families. In addition, student earnings for middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates at the highest price-of-attendance level were lower than earnings for those at other price-of-attendance levels. At the highest price-of-attendance level, 96 percent of parents were reported to contribute to the price of attendance. Again, we do not know the actual amounts contributed by parents, but these data suggest that parents may have contributed amounts that exceeded their EFC by several thousand dollars. This gap between net price, student earnings, and EFC may explain why a smaller percentage of middle income FTFY dependent undergraduates with mid-range SAT scores were enrolled at the highest price-of-attendance level in comparison to those in the higher income group, with more financial resources to meet out-of-pocket expenses. Perhaps middle income parents, on average, made additional financial effort to pay for their dependents who were among the best scholastically, but did not make additional financial effort for those who were mid-range students scholastically. Another reason may be that institutions in the highest price-of-attendance level may not practice need-blind admissions, but balance applicants' academic strengths with their financial aid needs, resulting in fewer enrollees with mid-range scores who have higher financial need (see Summary figure).


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education