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Financing a College Education

Getting the Message Out: College Is Possible
The Coalition of America's Colleges and Universities has launched a national education campaign today to enhance public knowledge about financing a college education. Nearly 1,200 colleges and universities will participate. The campaign, called "College Is Possible," will include efforts by local campuses to reach students and parents in their region, supported by a website (, the U.S. Department of Education's special toll-free number for college information (1-800-433-3243), and a comprehensive resource guide.

The campaign was launched at a press conference held at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. American Council on Education (ACE) President Stanley O. Ikenberry was joined by Richard W. Riley, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and leaders from the national higher education community. The campaign is in response to survey research conducted earlier this year that showed that, while parents and students value a college education, many dramatically overestimate the price, often by as much as 200 percent, and underestimate the resources that are available to them to help pay for college. The danger, which America's colleges and universities hope to avert through this campaign, is that many citizens will miss out on the opportunity for a college education because they do not have adequate information about the range of options and sources of help. The students most at risk are minority students, families with low incomes, and students whose parents did not themselves attend college.

Colleges have an obligation to help Americans become better, more knowledgeable consumers of higher education, Ikenberry said. "No deserving student should be deprived of a college degree because he or she doesn't have the right information," he said. "We think this nationwide campaign will help close the information gap." "I am very pleased that the Coalition of America's Colleges and Universities is launching the "College Is Possible" campaign to help spread the message to all Americans that postsecondary education is an important, attainable, and affordable option," said Secretary Riley.

Findings from a survey released in May revealed that many Americans are not aware of the wide range of tuition prices and academic experiences among the 3,600 colleges and universities in the United States. Most people do not realize that there is $60 billion available to students in financial aid from federal, state, local, and institutional sources to help them meet college bills. Seven out of ten full-time students qualify for financial aid -- many receive a substantial amount. At private colleges, for example, the average undergraduate receives $9,000 to help pay for college, reducing their expenses by almost half. Students at public colleges and universities also receive significant amounts of student aid, further reducing the price of attendance.

The survey research also demonstrated that parents and students need more information on the components of college costs and why they are on the rise. The "College Is Possible" campaign will encourage colleges and universities to adopt creative and innovative cost-cutting measures, and better communicate with the public about the complexities of college financing. "Despite the fact that tuition increases have stabilized in recent years, the higher education community must continue to find ways to contain costs and control tuition increases," Ikenberry said. "However, we also should fill the information gap with respect to actual versus perceived tuition prices, as well as educate people about why college costs what it does."

The "College Is Possible" campaign, beginning today, is slated to run through the year 2000. The Coalition of America's Colleges and Universities consists of nearly 1,200 colleges, universities, and associations across the United States that have come together to help increase public understanding of the financing of higher education. Because studies have demonstrated that the public lacks adequate information to make informed choices involving higher education, coalition members have committed to engage their communities on the issues of tuition prices, the wide availability of student aid, and campus efforts to improve cost management. Through advertising and outreach at the local level, and a toll-free number and website available nationally, the Coalition wants to get a simple three-word message out to the American people: College Is Possible.

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