A recent report from the Michigan League for Human Services has found that while the important of post-secondary education has grown in Michigan, financial aid for adults remains limited. This is particularly troubling as tuition at four-year colleges in Michigan has increased 20% since 2005 and 10% at two-year colleges.
The report finds tuition is a significant burden for families, particularly those with older adults wishing to return to school or gain additional job training. The report says that there are many obstacles for adults, including the way the federal financial aid system classifies people as “independent” and “dependent,” which can often lead to adults who are for all purposes “independent” having their parents’ income factored into the aid formula. Moreover, people who make less than $8,750 per year do not need to file income tax, yet a tax return is required for federal aid via the FASFA process. The report also found that many state programs in Michigan that aim to provide need based aid for people seeking to continue their education have age cut-offs. Programs that are open to wider age ranges–such as the Jobs, Education, and Training (JET) program and No Worker Left Behind–tend to be underfunded. Many adult students also face difficulties in receiving private loans due to credit checks according to the report.
However, while there are several obstacles to attaining post-secondary education and training, the report says that progress is being made through legislation aimed at streamlining the FASFA process and making aid programs more accessible. Even with these positive steps, the report argues that Michigan should consider increasing the amount of aid that it makes available to adult students.