Middle class struggles to fund school

Erin Peden

With the rising price of college, many options are available to assist students in paying for their higher education. This comes in the form of grants, loans, scholarships, etc. While these forms of financial aid are helpful, some students still find themselves struggling to pay for college without having to start their lives out in debt. Perhaps the people who understand this best are the middle class.

For example, students who come from a background of wealth may be able to pay for their college in full with no financial aid help whatsoever while a student with significantly less income may have their college completely or mostly paid for my grants and scholarships which they don’t have to pay back.

So what about the middle class?

It is true. Students claiming to be middle class are able to apply for scholarships and loans just like anyone else. However, this can sometimes prove to be a difficult task. Perhaps you were in the top percent of your high school class, making good grades and taking part in extracurricular activities. You apply to the school of your dreams and get accepted. One problem: You can’t afford it.

Many middle class people face this issue. Despite being a top-grade student, they do not qualify for enough student loan money or any at all in order to make their dreams a reality. Many are forced to compromise simply because the government tells them they make enough to be able to afford college on their own.

I believe there is a great flaw in this system. When most people think of the middle class, they sometimes think about students living with their parents while attending college. While a student may in fact be living with parents, this does not mean those parents are helping them pay for an education. Students who commute to school may choose to live at home because they can either not afford campus living, go to a community college, or they live close enough that it is more convenient to live at home.

These students may be working one or two part-time jobs while going to school full-time in order to be able to afford their education. Should they be penalized just because they live with their parents who the government claims makes enough money to help pay for their education?

Or what about adults who have spouses and families trying to further their education? Maybe they are completing a degree they never finished or taking classes in order to be able to make more money at their current job. Some of these people are working full-time, going to school full-time, and trying to raise a family all at the same time but, because the government interferes, they may be having a hard time affording their education.

So how does the middle class pay for college? The answer is a complicated one. I believe middle class students are having to get creative and go above and beyond in order to find ways to finance their education. I know from personal experience what it is like racking up as many scholarships as possible, combining it with financial aid, and still not being able to afford my school of choice. I’m not saying the middle class should automatically get a free ride when it comes to education, but people have other things to pay for and shouldn’t have to sacrifice where they want to attend school. I think the government should take all things into consideration before deciding someone has enough money to pay for college.

—Erin Peden

Staff Writer

To contact Erin Peden, email staffwriter1@occc.edu.

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