Equal Access: A National Comparison of Federal Grants-in-Aid Awarded at Public and Private Four- Year Degree Granting Institutions
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 7 No. 4 (2006): Vol-7-Issue-4-April-2006
More than twelve million undergraduate students in the United States benefit from some form of
financial aid. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education (as cited in The American Council of
Education 2008) indicate that 76% of undergraduates at public four-year degree-granting institutions
during the 2003-2004 academic year received financial aid, while 89% of undergraduate students at
private four-year not-for-profit degree-granting institutions were aid recipients.
The large percentage of students accessing financial aid indicates that affordability is a pressing
problem for many current and potential college students and their families. After inflation, the cost of
tuition and fees at public institutions increased an average 4.4% per year during the ten-year period
from 1997-1998 to 2007-2008, and the upward trend continues. During the same ten-year period, the
cost of tuition and fees at private four-year institutions increased by an average of 2.9% per year after
inflation (Baum and Steele 2007a). These increases in the cost of higher education have been blunted
by significant increases in the amount of aid available. In the decade prior to 2007, the total amount of
aid to students increased by approximately 82% in inflation-adjusted dollars (Baum and Steele 2007b).
So, while the cost of attaining a college education has increased and the number of students receiving
aid is significant, the increase in aid available is also noteworthy.