Re "Deep in student debt," Opinion, Feb. 10
Sarah Amandolare is troubled by "gapping" — colleges' practice of admitting students without awarding enough financial aid to make a school affordable. The vast majority of the nation's colleges have no other option.
Out of thousands of U.S. colleges and universities, fewer than 70 claim they will meet a student's full financial need. Many of these schools have hefty endowment funds. Others use less-generous estimates of what the student can pay, which often means a gap between what the college and the family think is affordable.
Some schools admit students regardless of need — until the college's financial aid budget is used up. The rest of the admitted students come only from applicants not requesting financial aid.
Gapping isn't the issue. The problem is students and their co-signer parents committing to mortgage-sized loans. At least in California, students can certainly find more affordable public options.
As Amandolare indicates, higher education can be financially ruinous to middle-class college students. This appears to be a manifestation of the economic law of unintended consequences.
Tax-supported higher education was originally intended to be extremely low in cost. In 1956, the base fee at the University of California was $84 a year. In 2013, the annual tuition is about $13,000 per year.
If UC tuition had increased in the same proportion as the federal consumer price index since 1956, it would be only $719.
From this and other data, it appears that colleges and universities have used federal student loan funds to benefit themselves at the expense of students and parents.
Frederic G. Marks
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