There is a new economics of college in America. At a time when more people than ever before are turning to college in search of a decent life marked by economic stability, college completion rates in the United States are stagnant. This is especially true at the public colleges and universities where most students enroll. Even community colleges, long positioned as the most accessible and affordable points of entry to higher education, are increasingly out of reach. The federal Pell Grant, which once covered the full cost of attending community college, now covers about 60%. The remaining balance is high, especially compared with the discretionary income of today’s community college students.
Increased enrollment of lower and moderate income students coupled with inadequate employment opportunities and high college prices mean that making ends meet while attending college can be very difficult.