If forced to choose between paying for groceries or paying a college's application fee, what would you choose?
Application fees and other costs early in the enrollment process can deter low-income students from entering college, Matt Reed writes for Inside Higher Ed.
Reed cites research by Tressie McMillan Cottom, an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
McMillan Cottom argues that the timing of fees matters—and says one of the reasons for-profit colleges woo so many students is that they understand this. The institutions don't charge application fees but convince students to agree to loans for tens of thousands of dollars. To a prospective student, a loan that doesn't have to be paid back for years is "mostly theoretical," Reed writes, but $40 today means forgoing a week of groceries.
"Taking that cost off the table can make the difference between trying and not," Reed writes.
Another early fee that can pose a barrier for some students is GED fees, according to Reed. The GED costs $120 for the full exam—which can be a lot for a test you're not sure you'll pass. And on top of that, there are prep courses, transportation, and childcare to consider.
Reed suggests that micro-scholarships for early fees like these can help encourage low-income students to complete the application process and enroll in college (Reed, Inside Higher Ed, 11/21).
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