A Decade of Change
Most of the data presented in this analysis are extracted from tables produced for A Decade of Undergraduate Student Aid: 1989–90 to 1999–2000, an NCES publication that contains an extensive compendium of tables on student financing of undergraduate education in each of the four NPSAS years between 1989–90 and 1999–2000 (Wei, Li, and Berkner forthcoming). The report tables present data on full-time, full-year undergraduates at four types of institutions (public 2-year, public 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, and private for-profit less-than-4-year) and within type of institution separately for dependent and independent students.4 For financial aid purposes, undergraduates are categorized as “dependent” or “independent.” Undergraduates under age 24 are generally considered financially dependent, which means that parents’ income and assets as well as the student’s are considered in determining eligibility for federal financial aid. Independent students are undergraduates 24 years and above or younger students who are married, have dependents of their own, are veterans, or are wards of the court. Parental financial resources are not considered for these students. In 1999–2000, 49 percent of all undergraduates were dependent (Horn, Peter, and Rooney 2002).
The analysis presented here focuses on dependent undergraduates who enrolled full time for the full academic year.5 It compares data for the 1989–90 and 1999–2000 NPSAS years by type of institution and family income quarters. The two end-points were selected for analysis as before and after comparisons, showing the results of the changes enacted by the 1992 Higher Education Amendments that were implemented in 1993–94.
While dependent, full-time undergraduates tend to receive the most attention in financial aid discussions, they represented only part of the total undergraduate population in 1999–2000: 12 percent at public 2-year institutions, 43 percent at public 4-year institutions, 52 percent at private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, and 19 percent at private for-profit less-than-4-year institutions.6
Many of the tables present data by family income. In 1999–2000, the average family income among full-time dependent students was $65,500.7 The average was $18,800 for families in the lowest quarter, $43,100 for those in the lower middle quarter, $67,600 for those in the upper middle quarter, and $124,600 for those in the highest income quarter. Adjusting for inflation, the average family income was higher in 1999–2000 than in 1989–90, when it was $62,300 (in 1999 constant dollars). The average family income increased for each quarter except the highest, where an apparent increase was not statistically significant.8
For ease of presentation, references to the 1989–90 and 1999–2000 academic years have been shortened to 1990 and 2000, and “full-time, full-year” has been shortened to “full-time.” Estimates of dollar amounts for 1989–90 were adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.9
4The estimates of participation in student aid programs and the amounts of aid received include students in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Students who were not U.S. citizens or permanent residents were excluded because they are not eligible for federal aid. Students who attended more than one institution (6 percent; Horn, Peter, and Rooney 2002) were also excluded because of the difficulty in matching information on price of attending and financial aid for these students. Students who attended private for-profit 4-year institutions were also excluded because just 1 percent of all full-time dependent students attended this type of institution (NPSAS: 2000 Undergraduate Data Analysis System). (back to text)
5In this analysis, “full-time, full-year” means enrolled full time for 8 or more months at a public 2-year, public 4-year, or private not-for-profit 4-year institution; at a private for-profit less-than-4-year institution, it means enrolled full time for 6 or more months. (back to text)
6In 1989–90, the corresponding percentages were 10, 44, 55, and 17 (1989–90 and 1999–2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Studies [NPSAS:90 and NPSAS:2000]). (back to text)
7The U.S. median family income for a 4-person family was $62,200 in 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau, “Median Income for 4-Person Families, by State”;http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/4person.html). (back to text)
8In 1989–90, the quarter averages (in 1999 constant dollars) were $14,000, $40,000, $62,500, and $122,100. (back to text)