Colleges: “You are too poor to attend”

Michael Lux News, Student Loan Blog, Student Loans 3 Comments

Catholic Universities are now telling potential students that their family’s income may not be enough to attend.

At Catholic University, located in Washington, D.C., many low income families are invited for a meeting with the school’s financial aid office.  However, the purpose isn’t to recruit students to the expensive private university, it to advise them that they might be better off attending a less expensive school.

According to one recent study, Catholic University is the most expensive school for families who qualify for high Pell Grants.  In fact, Catholic Universities are well represented at the top of the list.

What makes these schools more expensive for low-income families?

According to the vice president for enrollment management at Catholic University, the school needs to spend its financial aid money to attract “higher-end” students.  These would be the wealthy, high-achievement students who make the school look good.

Not all bad news

The school’s faith-based mission means that they feel obligated to avoid burdening families with student loan debt that they will likely struggle to pay back.  This is the basis for the financial aid meetings with the lower-income families.

Most schools don’t care whether the tuition money comes from student loans or from the family coffers.  They get paid either way.  However, the perspective from the student is much different.  Borrowing $30,000 a year to attend any school is a huge financial commitment.  This is debt that family members will likely cosign.  This is also the type of debt that can be life altering.

Though it is somewhat appalling that a college would turn students away because they are too poor, the reasoning behind it is sound.  In fact, the student loan crisis might be lessoned if more colleges behaved in this manner.

The Biggest Problem

This situation underscores the problems of higher eduction in the United States.  At many schools, college is incredibly expensive.  Despite the high costs, the majority of students have access to student loans to help them pay for the high-priced eduction.  The problem is that the eduction may not justify the debt, and it can be crushing for students and their families.

We have now reached the point where colleges turning away qualified students is our last line of defense.  Many young people and their families don’t appreciate the consequences until it is too late.  Absent a school turning away a potential paying customer, little can be done to prevent dangerous student loan borrowing.

Hopefully, more schools will start behaving in this manner.  Though it will undoubtedly result in some difficult meetings and hurt feelings, it could also bring awareness about the student loan crisis to the people who need the information the most.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Higher education is getting expensive in all areas. Public universities keep increasing their tuition to the point it is out of reach for a lot of people. The cost of college should make people think of how they will use their education in order to pay for it. Unfortunately, it is a tough question at 18 years old.

Money Beagle

When I started looking into college costs over 20 years ago, I noted how college costs were rising at a much more rapid rate than that of inflation, and predicted that at a certain point it would become unsustainable. Unfortunately, this is slowly coming true for more and more people.


“They feel obligated to avoid burdening families with student loan debt that they will likely struggle to pay back.” – that’s not such a bad thing. Students should consider a school’s cost just as much as they consider other, more fun aspects of the school.