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More College Students Rely On Federal Aid, Study Says

The percentage of U.S. undergrads who rely on the federal government for financial aid soared above 50 percent in the most recent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics. The data show that for the first time, a majority of students got federal help.

NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports for our Newscast unit:

"The new figures from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from 2007 to 2011, the percentage of undergraduate students who depend on federal loans and grants jumped from 47 percent to 57 percent.

"And it's not just the neediest students — students in all socioeconomic groups are increasingly dependent on government aid.

"Students who rely on government aid receive about $8,200 on average. But this is climbing, too, because college tuition and fees at public institutions are going up."

According to the survey, the majority of students at every income level except those whose families make more than $100,000 received some type of federal aid. And those above the century mark weren't far behind, at 47 percent.

In its report on the survey, Politico notes that while federal aid is being tapped more often than ever, when it comes to the aid colleges dole out, they're nearly as likely to give a grant to students from wealthier families as they are to give it to those whose family makes less than $20,000 a year.

"About 39 percent of students from families making less than $20,000 per year received grants from colleges' own funds," Politico reports. "But so did 38 percent of students from families with incomes of more than $100,000, up from 33 percent four years ago. The average grants were higher for the wealthiest students, who averaged $10,200 in college aid, than for the poorest, who got about $8,000."

To collect its data, the National Center for Education Statistics surveyed some 95,000 undergraduate and 16,000 graduate students who are attending 1,500 postsecondary institutions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was carried out during the 2011-2012 academic year.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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