giuliana New York

Too poor for college too rich for financial aid.

The White House argued that parents relying on 529s were wealthy enough that they didn’t need as much help as lower income families. The truth is that everyone, except for the super rich, is having a difficult time paying for college.

Dear Mr. or Mrs. president,

 I would like to inform you about a topic that I have been passionate about for quite some time that does not get the attention that it deserves.

The topic is middle class families not earning enough financial aid. The financial aid focus is mainly on low income students who get plenty of help from federal, state and university grants. Students from wealthy families earn an outsized share of merit based financial aid for their high grades, extreme athleticism and academic awards. But middle class families don’t get much help. The financial aid systems need to be reformed to widen the requirements for grants to include the middle class since the current recession has been financially hitting them the hardest.  

 The average debt for a four year graduate of a public university in 2016 is $37,172. The income for middle class families is roughly between $25,000 and $75,000. So potentially about half or even more of what middle class families make in a year is one year of college. YIKES! The amount middle class students are awarded is based on what the college estimates they can afford and is supposed to help fill in the gap.

But some middle and upper middle class families find that what the college expects them to contribute is more than what they can afford. Colleges look at the annual gross income. In my mother’s case, she makes roughly about $73,000 a year. My sister got denied financial aid for her senior year in college after applying to nearly every financial help program including FASFA where she barely got $1,000. They didn't look at what my mother makes AFTER federal tax, New York state tax, disability, social security and even more. Had they looked they would see that she only brings in about $2,200 every paycheck. 

If colleges looked at how much money my mother actually gets AFTER the humongous amount of bills including loans to finance her Masters degree, we would be getting a lot more financial help. Already having to pay for other bills with college on top has her barely having $50 in her pocket. So in regular life yes, we feel blessed to have a roof over our head and food on our table, but when it comes to college- we feel poor! It's a slap in the face when you are basically told "you are too rich for financial aid" when that is not the case whatsoever.

What I am asking you Mr. or Mrs. Future President is to not only think about low income families to qualify for financial aid. I am in no way suggesting they don't need help but please be more open to those of us caught in the middle.


Giuliana Mirabile