ERIC Identifier: ED284525
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Author: Moran, Mary
Source: Association for the Study of
Higher Education.| ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington
Student Financial Aid and Women. ERIC Digest.
Equal opportunity continues to be an essential variable in justifying
the existence of student aid programs, but not much attention has been focused
on the degree to which this objective is being achieved for women. While it is
no longer news that women are allowed to enroll in prestigious law schools, play
in college sports, and are beginning to enroll in nontraditional careers, the
question now becomes whether or not women are able to pay for higher education.
Who pays? Who benefits? Who should pay? The questions continue to be relevant in
the late 1980s, but the answers have shifted since the 1970s.
Although intentional discrimination is generally not the case, significant
policy issues exist for men and women--in total resources available to pay
college costs, in the amounts and percentages derived from different sources,
and in the way financial aid is distributed among students (Davis, 1977;
Rosenfeld and Hearn, 1982). For every dollar a man receives, women receive 68
cents in college earnings, 73 cents in grants, and 84 cents in loans for
low-income undergraduates (U.S. Department of Education, 1983). The more
significant differences between genders appear in discretionary programs like
college work study, academic merit scholarships, research assistantships, and
corporate benefit programs that pay tuition. Because many student aid programs
are based on formulas, a necessary unit of analysis becomes the formula itself
and other regulatory policies.
Despite the fact that the value and worth of higher education are
occasionally challenged, actual statistics on poverty rates, hourly wages, and
life-time earnings make it clear that increased years of schooling are
especially important for women. Two out of every three adults in poverty are
women, Yet poverty rates decrease with additional years of education and
salaries become more comparable with increased years of schooling. The income of
women with five years or more of college is 66 percent of that of comparable
males with the same level of educational achievement; women with a high school
diploma earn 59 percent of the income of similar males.
As the costs of attending college increase at more than double the rate of
inflation, the financial concerns of women need to be addressed. Demographic
changes continue to affect patterns of college enrollment. Since 1970, college
enrollment of women has increased 77 percent, compared to a 23 percent increase
for men. Indeed, women are contributing to a whole new style of postsecondary
education emerging in America. Their patterns of enrollment and economic
profiles differ from those of men, however, which should send warning signals to
student aid analysts and college officials. Women, for example, far surpass men
as adult, part-time, independent, and unclassified students-- those categories
most likely to present barriers to participating in most financial aid programs.
Women tend to depend on low-cost institutions, outnumbering men in public
undergraduate four-year and two-year colleges, while men outnumber women in
high-cost private institutions. Further, females with degrees are more likely to
enter the careers paying the lowest salaries.
WHAT ARE MAJOR POLICY ISSUES ON MAJOR STUDENT AID AFFECTING WOMEN?
Nearly all of the debate, research, and lobbying on student aid have
concentrated on percentages of funds received by type of institution-- four-year
public, two-year public, independent, and proprietary (Miller, 1984). Yet some
of the more difficult questions are being overlooked: What is the distribution
of aid among women? What is the nature of their aid packages? How do women fare
in student employment programs? Do women receive equal institutionally-funded
and corporate-funded aid? What is the nature of their cumulative debt? With over
$21 billion invested each year in all forms of student aid, these questions need
to be addressed. Several policies are of significant concern.
--The average salary of women repaying Guaranteed Student Loans is $17,407,
while that of males is $23,093; thus, women must use a larger proportion of
income than men to repay student loans (Boyd and Martin, 1986).
--Women are more likely to default on student loans and more likely to
declare bankruptcy. Divorced women, for example, are nearly three times as
likely to declare bankruptcy as divorced males (17 percent versus 6 percent)
(Stanley and Girth, 1971).
--In the current push for educational excellence, institutions are
intensifying recruiting efforts by awarding scholarships for "academic merit";
women, however, are underrepresented in such programs and may be confronting
unintentional biased attitudes during nomination, screening, and selection.
Although female high school seniors, for example, far outnumber males in
entering college, 2,280 females and 3,741 males won National Merit Scholarships
in 1985, of which 49 females and 264 males received awards in computer sciences.
--Single women with children have the most critical unmet need under current
student aid policies. Independent students with children are more likely to be
female and nearly five times as likely to be 24 years of age or older (Fenske,
Hearn, and Curry, 1985). Women are twice as likely as men to be classified as
independent students (66 percent versus 34 percent) at the freshman level, have
greater financial need, have higher dropout rates, and pay a greater portion of
their own college costs than dependent students.
--Working women confront barriers in corporate benefit programs that pay
tuition. When employees move into top management positions, their job
descriptions usually become more generalized, therefore affording access to a
wider range of "job-related" training courses. More women tend to work in
nonmanagerial positions with more restricted job descriptions and therefore have
fewer such opportunities.
--Child care is a significant cost of attending college for many women, yet
student aid policies usually are inconsistent, unclear, or nonexistent about
what allowances may be claimed.
--Individuals eligible to receive public assistance, three-fourths of whom
are women, generally are required to report all forms of student financial
assistance, including student loans, as a "source of income," and that amount is
subtracted either in whole or in prorated amounts from total allowable benefits
(Hansen and Franklin, 1984).
--Low-income females tend to participate at half the rate of low-income males
in the Guaranteed Student Loan program. More women may be unwilling to apply for
loans when they face the prospect of low earnings upon graduation.
--For nearly 65 percent of freshmen women (47 percent of freshmen men),
parental aid is a major source of support. Parents of women contribute more than
expected compared to amounts contributed by parents of men as a consequence of
their receiving less student aid (David, 1977).
--Men hold disproportionately more research assistantships, as opposed to
teaching assistantships. Recipients of research assistantships have more
opportunities to publish before they finish their Ph.D.s and receive more
subsidized conference travel.
WHAT ACTIONS ARE NEEDED TO IMPROVE THE PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN IN STUDENT AID
Given the importance of equal opportunity in achieving educational
excellence, the underlying causes of inequity need to be recognized and
corrected (Klein, 1985; Miller, 1984). Several actions could improve women's
participation in student aid programs: conducting research, targeting
information toward women, funding child care, improving partnerships between
high schools and colleges, equalizing pay in college work programs, coordinating
requirements for student aid with public assistance offices, increasing student
aid from the private sector, reviewing standards of accreditation, expanding
options to forgive loans, and implementing self-assessment programs. An
overlooked issue in the debate over "Grove City v. Bell" is that of equitable
distribution of financial assistance for students. Initial interpretations of
the ruling have emphasized only the "student aid office," not the "student aid
program" as directed by the Supreme Court. This distinction is essential,
because many awards of student aid--athletic scholarships, graduate internships,
research assistantships, endowments, and scholarships from the private
sector--neither filter through nor are reported by the student aid office.
(This digest is a summary of ED 277 318.)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Boyd, Joseph D., and Dennis J. Martin. The NASFAA Loan Study: A REPORT ON THE
CHARACTERISTICS OF GSL BORROWERS AND THE IMPACT OF EDUCATIONAL DEBT. Washington,
D.C.: National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, 1986.
Davis, Jerry. "Paying for College Costs: Does the Student's Sex Make a
Difference?" JOURNAL OF STUDENT FINANCIAL AID 7 (l977): 21-34
Fenske, Robert, James Hearn, and Denis Curry. UNMET STUDENT FINANCIAL NEED IN
THE STATE OF WASHINGTON: A STUDY OF THE "NEED GAP." Olympia: State of Washington
Council for Postsecondary Education, 1985.
Hansen, Janet S., and Paul L. Franklin. COLLEGE OPPORTUNITY AND PUBLIC
ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: IDEAS FOR RESOLVING CONFLICTS. Washington, D.C.: College
Klein, Susan S., ed. HANDBOOK FOR ACHIEVING SEX EQUITY THROUGH EDUCATION.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, l985.
Miller, Scott E. THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE: A
SUMMARY OF ITS RECOMMENDATIONS. Policy Brief. Washington, D.C.: American Council
on Education, l984.
Moran, Mary. STUDENT FINANCIAL AID AND WOMEN: EQUITY DILEMMA? ASHE-ERIC
HIGHER EDUCATION REPORT NO. 5, l986. ED 277 318.
Rosenfeld, Rachel A., and James C. Hearn. "Sex Differences in the
Significance of Economic Resources for Choosing and Attending a College." In THE
UNDERGRADUATE WOMAN: ISSUES IN EDUCATION EQUITY, ed. P. Perena. Lexington, MA.:
Lexington Books, 1982.
Stanley, David T., and Marjorie Girth. BANKRUPTCY: PROBLEM, PROCESS, REFORM.
Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute, 1971.