Catholic colleges and low-income students

Back in September, New America Foundation published a study that used federal data to evaluate how well colleges do in admitting low-income students and providing financial aid to them. An article by the Hechinger Report, a non-profit news service devoted to coverage of education, noted the study criticized colleges that, with a "relentless pursuit of prestige and revenue,” were using their financial aid "not to help low-income students, but to attract affluent students with good grades," thereby improving their standing in national rankings.  

What caught my eye is that of the 10 colleges where low-income students pay the most (after financial aid is deducted), five are Catholic colleges. Catholic University of America led the list, with a net cost of $30,770, closely followed by Philadelphia-based St Joseph's University. At the same time, there is also a cluster of Catholic colleges that do very well in both admitting low-income students and in keeping their costs down--five of the top 10 among private colleges the study surveyed.

How does this square with the preferential option for the poor? Does Ex Corde Ecclesiae have anything to say about low-income students' access to Catholic colleges?

I explored this in an article for the Hechinger Report.

What I found was that the high-priced Catholic colleges willing to talk about it are indeed aware of having a duty to the poor, and are struggling with it. It's not an easy situation. But should they be doing more?

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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