I beg you: Please don’t write another story this fat-envelope season about a senior’s difficult decision between Penn and Columbia and Duke and Berkeley and Cornell. Seriously. Enough already.
Journalists do occasionally write about students accepted at college who then struggle to muster financial aid. Better, I would love to see a story featuring actual students who “undermatch” simply because they assume they wouldn’t be able to afford more rigorous and/or selective schools, to which they don’t bother to apply (or, years before, even aspire to). Time and again I teenagers from poor families tell me they wouldn’t ever be able to go to such-and-such school because it costs so much. They do not have the guidance and resources—attentive parents, good counselors, etc.—to learn how little of a college’s sticker price they would actually pay.
Another story to be told is how much flies out of the pockets of even students who receive a full ride. Realistically, how much does college cost beyond the aid package—books, bus fare, the winter parka a southerner buys to attend school in the North—and what kind of hardship might that be? Are there people for whom the tipping point between being educated and not is access to a few hundred dollars a year? I would imagine so.