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April 11, 2024

  • Poetics of April
    As we enter into the poetics of April, also known as national poetry month, here are four voices from well to lesser known. The Tradition – Jericho Brown Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Brown visited the last American Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP 2024) conference, and I loved his speech and humor. Besides […]
  • Barbara Marie Minney in Perrysburg
    Indie bookstore, Gathering Volumes, just hosted poet and (transgender) activist, Barbara Marie Minney in Perrysburg To celebrate Trans Day of Visibility, Minney read from her poetry book – A Woman in Progress (2024). Her reading depicted emotional and physical transformations especially in the scene of womanhood and queer experiences. Her language is empowering and personally […]
Spring Housing Guide

United States financial aid system needs merit-based revisions

FAFSA — the acronym makes me cringe.

Few college students probably know what its letters stand for, but I’m sure many have experienced its repercussions.

I received the last financial aid package of my college career this past week from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the form all students must complete to receive federally funded financial assistance for higher education.

Once again, I was disappointed, but that’s nothing new.

Like many college students, I’ve recently adopted a desensitized mindset of “Oh well, a few more thousands of dollars of debt won’t hurt me anymore.”

I wince, thoughtlessly click the “accept” button and add a few more loans to my collection.

Nonetheless, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but think it shouldn’t have to be this way.

I’m a hard-working student with excellent grades. I’m involved in the campus community. I’ve worked a summer job since I was 14.

I pay my bills on time, and with the exception of an occasional speeding ticket, I rarely get into trouble.

So why, year after year, do I find myself scrambling to make financial ends meet?

The answer is simple, but its solution is uncertain: America’s financial aid system is flawed.

My lack of federal financial aid isn’t because of what I am — it’s because of what I’m not.

I’m not rich. I’m not poor. I’m not in an unfortunate family situation and I’m not filing my FAFSA as an independent.

The FAFSA, by focusing strictly on demographics, family circumstances and income, rather than academic achievements, favors families on the extreme ends of the spectrum and disadvantages those in the “middle ground.”

Families on the wealthy end of the spectrum make enough money to pay for higher education up front. These students benefit because they don’t require loans, and as a result, avoid accumulating significant debt prior to graduation.

Families on the poor end of the spectrum have access to extensive need-based grants — essentially “free money” that doesn’t need to be paid back after graduation. These students also benefit by avoiding a slew of debt prior to graduation through the FAFSA.

But what about families like mine, which fall under neither of these categories?

Well, when I was accepted into college, I like to say all I received from the FAFSA was a pat on the back and a “good luck, kid.”

Loans are the only federal aid I receive, and they don’t even fully cover my tuition.

As a result, I’ve applied for every merit-based scholarship I can get my hands on. Even after several sleepless nights of filling out applications, gathering letters of recommendation and writing essays, the meager scholarship funds I receive still don’t cut it.

The solution: I take out more private loans, and the vicious cycle continues.

I’m significantly in debt, and I’m not ashamed to say it, because according to recently circulated statistics, I’m clearly not alone.

Americans now owe more on their student loans than on their car loans or credit cards, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York referenced by several major media outlets this past week.

Student loan debt now totals about $870 billion nationally, according to the report.

Debt from car loans and credit cards total about $730 billion and $693 billion, respectively.

These numbers aren’t so obscure when we consider that Bowling Green State University was ranked highest in Ohio in 2011 for student loan debt. The average debt for a BGSU graduate was $31,515 this past year.

Both the local numbers and the national trends are not and should not be considered acceptable.

Something must be done to alleviate the vast amounts of debt that have become synonymous with higher education.

If not, I fear many intelligent, academically gifted students might be discouraged from attending college.

A large load of debt is stressful, and arranging for funds to cover each semester can be both time-consuming and tumultuous.

I don’t write this column for myself — it’s too late for me. My damage is done, and the bill I’ll receive this December exceeding $25,000 will attest to that fact.

It is my hope, however, that by addressing this problem, I can ignite a small spark of a conversation that needs to soon be set ablaze in the world of higher education.

America’s financial aid system needs revising, most specifically through more merit-based aid, which could reward students who consisenly succeed academically by helping them dodge discouraging debt.

After all, aren’t academics (allegedly) the reason students attend college in the first place?

An increase in merit-based aid could ensure academically gifted students in the “middle ground” of the income spectrum don’t fall through the cracks because of financial limitations.

Maybe then, the FAFSA’s “promise of postsecondary education to all Americans,” as advocated on its website, can be a realistic, attainable goal.

Respond to Alissa at

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