The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that this seems to be be changing.
“They have long served as a vital pathway for students from modest means and those who are the first in their families to attend college. But many public universities, faced with their own financial shortfalls, are increasingly leaving low-income students behind—including strivers like Ms. Epps.
“It’s not just that colleges are continuously pushing up sticker prices. Public universities have also been shifting their aid, giving less to the poorest students and more to the wealthiest. A ProPublica analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that, from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants—as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts—to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend continued even though the recession hit those in lower income brackets the hardest.
“Attention has long been focused on the lack of economic diversity at private colleges, especially at the most elite institutions. What has been little discussed, by contrast, is how public universities, which enroll far more students, have gradually shifted their priorities—and a growing portion of their aid dollars—away from low-income students. State colleges are typically considered to offer the most affordable, accessible four-year education students can get. When those institutions raise tuition and don’t offer more aid, low-income students are often forced to decide not just which college to attend but whether they can afford to attend college at all. “The most needy students are getting squeezed out,” said Charles B. Reed, a former chancellor of the California State University system and of the State University System of Florida. “Need-based aid is extremely important to these students and their parents.” There’s no data on the number of needy but qualified students who are “squeezed out” and don’t make it onto four-year college campuses. But what is clear is that while the number of needy students has been growing, state colleges have not kept up. Over roughly two decades, four-year state institutions have been educating a shrinking portion of the nation’s lowest-income students, according to an analysis of Pell Grant data by Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior scholar at the nonprofit Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. The task of educating low-income students has increasingly fallen to community colleges and for-profit colleges.”