Federal loans are the safest, most stable loans available to students. They don't fall victim to the fluctuations of the market economy, come with low interest rates, and provide flexible repayment plans. Yet roughly 900,000 community college students, nearly 1 in 900,00010, are denied access to these loans because their college administrators choose not participate in federal loan programs, according to a recent Project on Student Debt study. Students of color face even higher barriers to federal aid, with 18% of African-American and 19% of Native American 2-year students lacking access to federal loans.
Without these options, students are forced to mitigate the cost of college by increasing their workload, cutting back on classes, or dropping out altogether.
Student aid reform legislation currently in the U.S. Senate makes unprecedented investments in federal aid programs such as the Pell grant and Perkins loan. Hopefully these historic increases will spur community college administrators into participating in these programs. Such involvement is essential, for while community college tuition and fees are traditionally lower than at 4-year universities, the cost of books and supplies, rent, transportation, and similar expenses are incredibly high and usually exceed tuition and fees.
“Access to college is crucial to the economic future of our nation because America will need a well-educated and trained workforce in order to compete in the global economy. Community colleges are critical to these efforts and the reform proposed in the financial aid system as well as efforts to improve these institutions are welcomed news to students,” said USSA Community College chair Nathan Hanson, a student at Inver Hills in Minnesota. If education is to be the engine driving America's economic prosperity, then community college administrators must allow their students to have access to federal aid; otherwise, the skyrocketing cost of college will continue to deny thousands of hardworking students the dream of attaining a college degree or certificate.