For middle-income college students, a rising dilemma

Many are too poor to write a check for college, but too rich to qualify for aid. With a federal solution looking unlikely, states like California are starting to offer some help.

Published Dec. 9, 2016

When it came to paying for college, Kelsey Brewer tried to do everything right.

She worked two jobs. She took out loans. She filled out the free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA, every year – a step that students who hail from middle-income families, as Ms. Brewer does, tend to skip because they assume they won’t qualify for financial aid.

But money was tight. When funds were lowest – usually around the end of the semester – Brewer had to make tough choices. One of the toughest: Whether she could afford to eat that day.

“There were times that I just went without,” says Brewer, who graduated in May from California State University, Fullerton, with a political science degree. “I was not eating every day. You have to decide: ‘Do I go to the grocery store or pay my internet bill today?’ ”

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