It's no secret that financing a college education is getting tougher. College costs have skyrocketed over the past decade or so, and there's no relief in sight. Average tuition at four-year colleges will increase 7 percent this school year, double the rate of inflation. Student aid is not increasing fast enough to plug the growing gap between tuition and family finances. In addition, there is a growing number of older students entering college today. These students have families that they need to support. I know, because I am a family man who has returned to school. I wish to finish my degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The only problems I face are financial in nature. It is with this in mind that I set about this research. The not so simple question: Is financial aid available to older students, and if so, how do they go about obtaining it?
The Cost Of Education
The cost of higher education varies by type of institution. Tuition is highest at private 4-year institutions, and lowest at public 2-year institutions. The private 4-year colleges nearly quadrupled their average tuition rates between 1975 and 1996. For private 4-year colleges, tuition and fees for the 1995-96 academic year averaged about $15,400, compared with about $5006 at public 4-year colleges. The cost of attending an institution of higher education includes not only tuition and fees, however, but also books and supplies, transportation, personal expenses and, sometimes, room and board. Although tuition and fees generally are substantially lower at public institutions than at private ones, the other student costs are about the same. According to MS-Encarta94,"the average cost for tuition, fees, and room and board for the 1995-96 academic year at private 4-year colleges was about $20,165. At public 4-year colleges the average combined cost was about $9290" (Encarta94).
The cost of attending RIT is approximately $15700 per year. This does not include room and board, or books, and supplies . This cost falls in line with the national average. However , according to Rachel Shuman of the RIT Financial Aid Department,"the increase in cost at RIT was 4.8 percent for the 1996-97 academic year over the 1995-96 academic year." This falls 2.2 percent below the national average for 4 year private institutions. Still, $15700 is a lot of dollars for an unemployed family man or woman with little or no income.
The Cost Of Living Factor
Though the Cost Of Living is not directly related to tuition it is still a major player in the decision making process. Is it possible to maintain a family financial structure while paying for an education? The cost of a mortgage, or rent, and other bills that are associated with living adds up to many thousands of dollars per year. These costs in addition to what the tuition, books, and supplies total are expected, and have to be dealt with.
The financial burden alone can seem over-whelming to some. But let us consider what the total cost of living and attending a four year private institution are. The Bureau of Census statistics for the County of Monroe indicate "that the approximate average income for a family of four is $50964. The poverty level for a family of four is approximately $15455". These are statistics calculated for the 1995 calendar year. No newer statistics were available. With these statistics in mind we can then determine the financial model we must follow. This model will determine what the total yearly outlay a family of four must shoulder in order to send a person to RIT.
The Financial Burden
First and foremost a family has to live. The Census data
indicates that the minimum a family must earn is "a poverty level income." So, let's assume a family needs $16000 per year for living expenses. The cost of attending RIT is $15651 per year. Books and supplies are approximately $1200 per year. Finally, travel expenses will be...