More colleges are starting to require students to pay for tuition, even if they receive a full scholarship.
According to a survey conducted in September by the National Scholarship Providers Association, 10 out 61 colleges have implemented a policy that requires students to pay a portion of their tuition, even if they have enough financial aid to cover it. In addition, some schools are cutting back on their own aid disbursements to students already receiving a private scholarship.
A study done by MarketWatch indicates that the number of colleges with similar policies in place is actually much higher. Their data shows that 36 colleges across the country require their students to make some form of payment towards their education whether it be for tuition, room and board, or fees. Prestigious learning insitutitons such as Amherst College, Columbia University, Duke University, Middlebury College, Mount Holyoke College, Vanderbilt University, Wesleyan University, and Williams College, have required all of their students to pay for at least a small portion of their education costs.
The payment amount is usually a fixed number anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000, with underclassmen typically paying less than upperclassmen. Some schools even expect their students to work during the summer in order to meet the fee requirements, and have labeled it a “summer earnings expectation”.
But this policy is also controversial, as it could take a serious toll on lower-income students. At New York’s Cornell University, Beatriz Barros attempted to pay $2,600 for her summer earnings expectation, using the money she received from the Gates Millennium Scholars program to cover the amount, but the financial aid office denied her payment.
This begs the question: if schools receive the same amount of money in the end, why does it matter if the student pays with scholarship money or out of pocket?
One of the theories that colleges are using to defend this practice is that if students invest their own money into their education, they will be more inclined to engage in their studies.
The theory that money will motivate students to study is also at the root of merit-based scholarships from colleges. Unlike need-based scholarships, these are awarded to students who have shown excellence in academics. But while some schools are denying payments made out of need-based aid, colleges such as Yale have allowed their students to pay for summer earnings expectation through merit-based scholarships.
Another reason colleges say they are charging students is because of the way they calculate financial need. Colleges review family income in order to estimate an “expected family contribution” that must be paid out of pocket. In addition, some schools also factor in other family assets or resources to determine the EFC.
Through this they determine whether or not a student must make an additional payment that cannot be covered by private scholarships.
Currently the majority of colleges that are requiring students to pay a portion of their college costs have been private institutions. The policy is also facing some criticism for putting too much burden on low-income students while barely affecting the wealthier students.