Pitt, Penn State beyond reach of poor
The University of Pittsburgh and Penn State, long among the highest-priced state flagship universities in the nation, may be pricing themselves out of serving the state's poorest students, a study concludes.
The schools ranked among the nation's 10 priciest public colleges for low-income students, according to a study released on Wednesday by the New America Foundation.
The study, “Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Low-income Behind,” examined Department of Education statistics that list the average net price — the price tag after grant aid — for students with family incomes of $30,000 a year or less.
At Pitt and Penn State, the net price amounts to about $17,000 a year.
Pennsylvania's subsidies to higher education are among the lowest in the nation, said Stephen Tritch, chairman of Pitt's board of trustees.
“It's not surprising to me that Pennsylvania schools are high on the list, given that,” he said.
The study found some public colleges excel at keeping costs low for needy students. They include the University of North Texas at $1,730 and the University of North Florida at $3,046.
Tritch said officials at Pitt, which distributed $20.99 million in need-based scholarships and $21.98 million in merit-based scholarship aid in 2011-12, plan to emphasize scholarships for needy students in fundraising campaigns.
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the school's state subsidy is “substantially less than it was in 2000” and is among the lowest in the nation.
“We have more student need than we do funds to give away,” Powers said, adding that scholarship fundraising is a priority.
Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst for the New America Foundation who penned the study, said federal statistics show colleges shifted the majority of their scholarships from need- to merit-based grants between 1995-96 and 2007-08. The foundation is a nonpartisan think-tank.
“The analysis shows that hundreds of colleges expect the neediest students to pay an amount that is equal or even more than their families' yearly earnings,” Burd wrote.
In Pennsylvania, 10 of the state's 14 state system universities charged the poorest students net prices in excess of $10,000 a year.
“Often, they get priced out of a college education entirely,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a Cranberry-based author who writes extensively about financial aid issues.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.