By Robert Stitt
College isn’t cheap. This is common knowledge. What may not be so well known is the disparity between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ when it comes to paying bills.
In addition to state and federal grants, “an estimated 16.1 billion in college scholarships [are] made available by golf associations, Rotary Clubs, businesses, and other private sources, according to the College Board — an amount almost twice as high as all the college grant money given by the 50 states combined,” the Hechinger Report notes. If you are surprised by this number, you are not alone. In fact, the lack of information about private grant opportunities is often the foundation of the inequality between scholarships available for the wealthy and those who are less fortunate financially. The problem is further compounded for Blacks and Hispanics.
The reality is quite simple: you cannot apply for that which you do not know exists. Wealthier students who go to elite schools statistically have better counselors and better student to counselor ratios than students who go to public high schools, especially those in the inner city. Private school counselors not only have a lower case load, but they spend more time talking to students about scholarship opportunities. These students then, whose parents are typically in the upper income brackets, are over 50 percent more likely to know about scholarships than those whose parents fall in the lower income brackets, according to a survey by the Harris polling company.
The Education Department notes the result of this lack of information: 30 percent more students whose parents earn a six-figure income receive private scholarships than those whose parents make less than $30,000, and its not because of student performance. The Hechinger Report quotes Max Espinoza, senior vice president at Scholarship America: “Families with experience going to college, they would know how to find that money…first-generation students don’t always know it’s out there,” or to put is a simpler way, “federal data shows that poor families that need the private scholarships the most are less likely to get them than higher-income ones.”
In the end, junior college, state college, an on-line school, a top-ranked university, or a job at Burger King trying to save up enough money for a semester of school are all real choices for millions of students across America. What determines who goes where? It’s not all GPAs and college entrance tests.
In many cases, it comes down to what the student and their family can afford, the financial aid and scholarships that are available to them, and the amount of data these students and families have to help make informed decisions. Which means, at least for today, the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ continues to widen.