Low-Income Fordham Students Pay More Than Average, Study Shows


Currently, Fordham’s tuition is $47,317, a figure that is likely to increase, as indicated by trends. (PHOTO BY ELIZABETH LANDRY/ THE OBSERVER)


Currently, Fordham University is the 35th most expensive university in the country. For low-income students, however, it’s the seventh most expensive.

According to a recent study published by New America, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington D.C., low-income students—those from families with a household income of $50,000 or less—do not receive a higher percentage of financial aid from Fordham to cover expenses.

According to the study, Fordham is the seventh most expensive university for low-income students to attend. On average, low-income students at Fordham pay $24,556 to attend the University, with 20 percent of the student population receiving Federal Pell Grants.

Pell Grants “do not have to be repaid” and “usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. For the 2016-2017 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant amount is $5,815.

Qualification for a Pell Grant is based on financial need, cost of attendance, status as a full-time or part-time student and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Nationwide, Federal Pell Grants are typically awarded to students from families who earn $50,000 per year or less. In 2013-14, the average amount of Pell Grant money given to low-income students at Fordham was $4,684.

According to the report, “94 percent of the private colleges examined charge the lowest-income students an average net price over $10,000,” which is the amount families pay after both the institution and the government have awarded them aid. Fordham’s low-income students pay more than twice the average.

The report indicates that universities such as Fordham use “institutional aid dollars as a ‘recruiting tool,’ rather than as a means of meeting a student’s financial need.” By strategically distributing financial aid this way, the report continues, universities try to attract students who will more feasibly be able to afford expensive tuitions, provided they receive some merit scholarship.

According to Angela Van Dekker, associate vice president for student financial services, these statements about Fordham using institutional aid as more of a recruiting tool than as a means of financial aid are “not true.”

According to the document, “colleges have become ‘increasingly reluctant to part with their money to enroll students who don’t raise their academic profile.’” Due to their affluence and access to expensive tutors, high-income students are also more likely to have higher test scores and grade point averages, according to the report. These factors in turn make students more attractive to universities because they raise their academic profile.

Conversely, the report also states, “It’s more profitable for schools to provide five ‘merit’ scholarships of $5,000 each to entice affluent students who will be able to pay the balance—even if they have less than stellar grades—than it is to provide a single $25,000 grant to a high-achieving low-income student.” According to the report, this effect is present at Fordham.

“Whatever we offer to recruit students we try to return, if the student meets the requirements,” Van Dekker said in an email statement.  “Universities need to strike a balance and recruit from many different economic, intellectual [and] geographic groups.  We also need to enrich our students’ education by having all types of diversity in the classroom.”  

“Our high performing low-income students receive a significant amount of aid and many times more than other high performing students.”

“Fordham tries its best to be equitable with all students,” she continued.  “We have a modest endowment and try to spread our funding over most of our students. We are trying to offer an enriched experience in both the classroom and campus life.”  

Van Dekker said in the email statement that when the University is determining which students receive financial aid and how much they will receive, they “look at all aspects of the students.”  These aspects include “the data on both the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and on the CSS Profile,” as well as  “additional documentation and/or clarifications” that the University may request.  “The student’s academic profile” and “prior academic performance in challenging high school programs” are also considered.

In determining the amounts of financial aid students receive, “We first build a budget for the student including tuition and mandatory fees, then if the student is on campus, room and board,” Van Dekker said in the email statement.  “We add allowances for books, transportation and other miscellaneous costs. Aid awarded looks at both the academics and the financial need of the student.”

“From the budget we subtract family contributions using both the FAFSA and Profile formulas,” Van Dekker continued in the email statement.  “If there is financial need after the Pell Grant and state grants students may receive need-based aid from our SEOG [Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant] allotment (for very high need students) or from money set aside in the budget for institutional aid.”  

“The institutional aid is a combination of scholarships and grants,” Van Dekker said.  “All aid is basically a discount of tuition.”

She added that scholarships “are offered to the top 8-10 percent  of the admitted students,”  and that financial need is considered when awarding scholarships.

Regarding Fordham being the seventh most expensive university for low-income students, Van Dekker said that “a private education is very expensive.”  

“The cost of maintaining the institution is very high,” Van Dekker said in the email statement.  “We are located in New York City, which is one of the most expensive areas.  Every year there are more demands coming from numerous areas, including both federal and state governments.  These requirements drive up our expenses.”

Currently, Fordham’s tuition is $47,317, a figure that is likely to increase, as indicated by trends. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Fordham’s tuition has increased by 3.7 percent since the 2014-2015 academic year and by 12.5 percent since the 2013-2013 academic year. This tuition ranks the University as the 35th most expensive university in the country, according to the U.S. News and World Report.

A few additional contributing factors to the high tuition rates that Van Dekker listed “offhand” in the email statement were  “bringing in highly qualified instructors, the high cost requirements of the digital age, the cost to house students, the cost of utilities in our area [and] financial aid to our students.”

“Few [students] pay the total cost,” Van Dekker said in the email statement. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 89 percent of undergraduate students received grants or scholarships from the University in the 2013-2014 academic year, totalling $38,356,933 with an average amount of $22,262 awarded.

Jalen Glenn, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’16 and author of the op-ed The Overlooked Socioeconomic Divide at Fordham,” said that the New America report is “disheartening.”

“And it’s not just disheartening because it’s wrong, but because I’m not shocked by it,” Glenn continued, noting the absence of socio-economics in many of the University’s discussions on social justice and diversity. 

Other students interviewed, such as Kelty Lonergan and Demetrios Stratis, both FCLC ’19, echoed Glenn’s sentiment, saying that they were “not surprised” by the study’s findings.

“The Diversity Task Force has been gaining a lot of momentum recently, but I went to one of the [Community Meetings] and I asked, ‘Do you all have an economic component to it?’ And they said, ‘We don’t. We haven’t actually considered economics,’” Glenn said. “And I think that’s just largely reflective of how we don’t really have a straightforward way in this country to talk about or think about inequality.”

“Too often it falls under race and class, like they’re interchangeable concepts, but they’re not, because that does two things: it obscures the fact that there are rich black people and obscures the fact that there are poor white people,” Glenn continued. “It’s just very disheartening [and] it’s an unspoken issue in all social justice conversations currently on campus because they too often privilege race at the expense of class.”