Report: Poor Pa. families pay dearly for college

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - November 19, 2008 Families making $20,000 or less must pay an average of 73 percent of their annual income for a dependent child to attend a state-owned university without loans and 37 percent with loans, the report to the State Board of Education said. Both figures reflect the net cost once state and federal grant aid is applied.

For those same families, the cost for attending a community college at the lowest tuition rate amount to 37 percent without loans and 24 percent with loans.

"That raises questions about what our financial-aid policies are in the state and in the country, and whether or not there's anything we can do to equalize the burden across different income levels," said Kathleen Shaw, deputy secretary of the department's office of postsecondary and higher education.

The report also found that Pennsylvania students graduate from public universities with relatively high debt burdens.

The board requested the report as part of its inquiry into the challenges of paying for rising college costs in Pennsylvania. It is also conducting a telephone survey with assistance from Penn State University on how families pay for college and hopes to make the results available in January, chairman Joseph Torsella said.

The board also heard testimony from students and college officials during a series of public hearings last month.

"I think we've started a conversation," Torsella said.


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