National study rates FHSU highly affordable, accessible

HAYS, KS -- Validation for the "affordable" half of Fort Hays State University's slogan "Affordable success" has come from a study conducted by an independent private foundation based in Indianapolis, IN.

The Lumina Foundation released its report, "Unequal Opportunity: Disparities in College Access Among the 50 States," on Jan. 7. The report is the result of a study to gauge institutional accessibility for low- and median-income students at more than 2,800 colleges and universities nationwide.

Fort Hays State University was found to be affordable for all four income groups with which the study was concerned -- low-income and median-income dependent students and low-income and median-income independent students. The affordable-unaffordable classification is based on an assessment of both costs -- tuition and living costs -- and the amount of financial aid available.

The affordable rating means that the total financial need for a student (based on total cost of attendance) is less than $500 after the expected family contribution (based on federal student aid formula) and any federal, state, or institutional grant aid is subtracted from the total cost of attendance.

The total cost of attendance is an estimate of living and institutional costs based on 1998 data, the last year, said the Lumina Foundation's Executive Report on the study, for which complete data is available.

An institution is deemed affordable with loans if financial need for a student is more than $500 but less than $3,125 for dependent students, and more than $500 but less than $5,500 for independent students, after the expected family contribution (based on federal student aid formula) and any federal, state, or institutional grant aid is subtracted from the total cost of attendance.

FHSU, said the report, is affordable for traditional (dependent) low-income students, is affordable for traditional median-income students, is affordable -- with loans -- for non-traditional (independent) low-income students and is affordable, again, with loans, for median-income non-traditional students.

Dependent students are traditional college-age students who live on campus or with their families. Non-traditional, or independent, students are old students living alone.

"This report demonstrates that Fort Hays State remains within its assigned mission of providing affordable, high-quality liberal arts education to anyone who wants it," said Dr. Larry Gould, university Provost.

The report broke institutions down into two categories -- generally admissible, defined as "admissions test scores consistent with the middle range of scores for all test-takers in their states, and generally inadmissible, which "means that the institution is selective, that it generally enrolls the more highly qualified applicants."

Fort Hays State was one of only two four-year institutions in Kansas found to be both admissible and affordable for all four groups of students. The other was Pittsburg State University.

"The report itself is of consequence because it illustrates the unequal opportunity people have in our country to attend college," said Gould.

The accessibility of higher education in America, he said, is important as an investment in people.

"This investment," he said, "helps to assure a high-performance work force and an educated citizenry to maintain democracy and a civil society."

Gould quoted President John F. Kennedy, who said in 1962: "Higher education in this country needs to create an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity."

"One of the things this university is all about," said Gould, "is living up to that quote." FHSU's mission is to provide an education for the middle class of western Kansas, he said.

"It's one of the reasons I chose to come to an institution like Fort Hays State University," he said.

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