Financial Fragility Affects College Completion

on February 22, 2017

A new report, Making Ends Meet, from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, finds a very high prevalence of financial fragility among community college students. Almost half, or some 47 percent, of respondents say that financial insecurity could cause them to drop out of college.


The report is based on a survey of 99,721 community college students from 117 community colleges.


More than half (57 percent) would have difficulty getting emergency funds (e.g., cash, credit or from family and friends) to pay for unexpected costs of $500 or more. And 18 percent would not be able to handle any unexpected expenses.


According to the report, 55 percent struggle to keep up with bills.


The report states 63 percent live paycheck to paycheck. Among students with children living with them, 74 percent live paycheck to paycheck. And 33 percent of female students have children living with them, almost double the 17 percent of male students who have children living with them.


Most of these students, some 91 percent, say they need information about financial aid. Of them, 27 percent say that they do not receive adequate information from their college.


Almost 40 percent receive Federal Pell Grants. Of the Pell Grant recipients, 61 percent live below the poverty line for a family of four. Pell Grant recipients are more likely to aspire to an associate’s degree than non-recipients (53 percent vs. 42 percent) and less likely to aspire to a bachelor’s degree (35 percent vs. 41 percent).


This report underscores the need for increasing student awareness of financial aid, for increasing grants and for establishing emergency aid funds. The growing food and housing insecurity also demonstrates the need for food banks on college campuses.

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