When I attended college, I was thrilled to obtain need-based financial aid. This assistance made it much easier for me to pay for my educational costs and reduced the amount of student debt I needed to borrow. However, financial aid should increase over time, and students should not be provided the same level of aid each year they attend school.
In college, my financial aid stayed constant throughout my four years as an undergraduate. One major reason why financial aid should increase over time is because the cost of attending college generally increases over the years. Each year, my cost of attending school increased a few thousand dollars, and my financial aid remained the same.
In order to make up the gap between my financial aid and the cost of attendance, I employed a number of methods. For one, I tried to make due with less pocket money that was built into my financial aid package. Financial aid and student loans typically come with some cushion to pay for books, fees, food, and other expenses, and students can try and get by with less money if the cost of attendance increases and financial aid remains constant.
Another method I used to make up for the financial aid gap was to become a community advisor and live in underclassman housing in exchange for a free room. This meant that I did not need to pay for the cost of housing, which was more substantial than the increase of the cost of attending college year over year. Of course, I had numerous responsibilities as a community advisor, but it was worth it to pay for part of the cost of attending school.
Ultimately, financial aid should increase over time, because many students will need to borrow student loans in order to make up any gap between the increased cost of attendance and a student’s financial aid package. As a college student, I believe that I was forced to increase the amount of student debt that I borrowed to attend college. This was a difficult choice, but I could not make up the gap over four years by simply becoming a community advisor and spending less money on books and other expenses.
However, some schools do realize that financial aid should increase over time and provide students more financial aid to match increases in the cost of attending school. Indeed, in law school, my financial aid package increased to match the higher cost of attendance between the years I attended school.
As mentioned in several prior articles, I received generous need-based financial aid during law school. I was also fortunate to attend a law school that knew how financial aid should increase over time. During the years I was in law school, my financial aid package increased with the cost of attendance.
It should be noted that my law school did lower my financial aid package modestly based on my income. After my second year of law school, I worked at a law firm and earned a substantial amount of money, and I needed to report this money to the financial aid office. However, the small amount my law school lowered my financial aid because of my earnings was more than offset by the fact that my law school knew financial aid should increase over time.
There are of course many reasons why financial aid should increase over time. Perhaps most importantly, this is only fair to students. Universities purportedly establish financial aid programs in order to ensure that students do not face financial pressure or limitations because of their financial background. However, failing to account for increases in the cost of attendance can place unneeded financial pressure on students.
Nevertheless, increasing the financial aid of students ensures that students are taken care of for all of the years they attend college. In addition, the increase is usually a modest sum, merely a few thousand dollars a student on average. Nevertheless, adjusting for the cost of attendance provides students much-needed security, which should be one or the goals of a financial aid program.
Moreover, students often make decisions to attend a college based on the financial aid offering of a student. However, many students do not know beforehand if their school increases financial aid with the cost of attendance or if the financial aid package stays the same over the four years of should. Once a student is already enrolled in school, it is very difficult for them to change which school they attend to potentially matriculate at a school that has a more generous financial aid program that provides more assistance to make up for the cost of attendance. To take care of students who are unable to shop around as easily for different offerings once they are enrolled in school, and to avoid a “bait and switch” wherein students are expecting to be taken care of all the years they attend school, financial aid should increase over time.
Of course, sometimes schools have financial pressure that may limit the school’s ability to provide more aid. In addition, some schools do not increase the cost of attendance and so they do not need to increase financial aid offerings. However, financial aid should increase over time to take care of students and to be fair to stakeholders of a university.