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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

NCES Analyzes Payment for College, Condition of U.S. Education

June 2, 2004

More students received need-based financial aid in 2000 than in 1990 and the average aided student received more money, according to a report released June 1 by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). During the same period there was similar growth in grant aid, however these student aid increases did not offset prices increases at most colleges and universities during the 1990s.

The report, The Condition of Education 2004, is an annual progress report mandated by Congress with details about 38 indicators of developments and trends in U.S. education. This year’s report included a special analysis on paying for college, in addition to other statistics such as enrollment, student achievement, education financing, and degree attainment.

According to NCES, the overall picture of how students and families pay for college changed significantly during the 1990s. Tuition and fees increases were offset in part by broadened student loan qualifications brought about by the 1992 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and state and institutional increases in grant aid.

In 2000, 71 percent of students received need-based aid, compared with 54 percent in 1990. The average aided student received $2,500 more in aid, from $6,200 in 1990 to $8,700 in 2000. Similarly, grant aid increased from 45 percent of students in 1990 to 57 percent in 2000. The amount of aid increased from $4,200 in 1990 to $5,400 in 2000. Combined, these increases in financial and grant aid were not enough to offset price increases except for students in the highest income groups attending two- and four-year public institutions.

Trends related to post-secondary enrollment are also detailed in the report. Undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase in the next 10 years, especially so at four-year institutions, among women more than men, and among full-time students compared with part-time students. The number of older students combining work and school has increased to one third of undergraduates. Related to this, perhaps, is the growth in distance education, with the number of course enrollments nearly doubling between 1997-98 and 2000-01.

Student achievement statistics indicate that completion rates among bachelor’s degree candidates have remained stable, with more than half of students earning a degree within five years. There is an increased likelihood of still being enrolled with no degree after five years, however, and students who must take remedial coursework are less likely to earn a degree.

To access the full report with information about the educational indicators, visit