High tuition, few Pell grants recipients: An overview of Quinnipiac’s economic diversity

Chatwan Mongkol, Associate News Editor

With tuition increasing every academic year, Quinnipiac University students have different ways to fund their education from having it paid for by their parents to taking out federal loans and receiving Pell grants. The trend reflects economic diversity at Quinnipiac.

“Compared to other surrounding schools and their tuition rates, I would say that the rate at QU is incredibly high,” said Mairead Reilly, a first-year psychology major. “The fact that it continuously goes up is concerning, considering that it is already unaffordable for many potential students.”

Connor Lawless

According to the data from the United States Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Quinnipiac’s tuition and fees for first-year students went up 3% between the academic years 2019-20 and 2020-21.

It will increase 1.15% for the next academic year, which will make the direct costs for incoming first-year students $66,960.

Room and board costs have also increased 3.3% between 2019-20 and 2020-21, and they will increase 1.62% in the next academic year.

Sophomore English major Kerry Deasy said that the tuition is high contrary to the quality of life the university provides to its on-campus students.

“A lot of times, tuition is something that is more associated with the education aspect of college more than anything else when in reality, you are paying for the entire living experience and every part of it should make you feel as though you are getting your money’s worth,” Deasy said.

With the expensive cost to attend Quinnipiac, Reilly said it came with the stereotypes that the university is for rich, elite kids.

Director of Financial Aid Victoria Hampton said students’ financial need is not a consideration during the admission process.

Public financial aid information suggests how the university is doing in terms of its economic diversity.

The data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that 97.8% of students received different kinds of scholarships or grants, and 66% of students took out federal student loans.

“I receive (a) grant and scholarship from QU every year, but I pay for the remainder of tuition solely on loans,” said Bryanna Clement, a junior chemistry major.

While many took out loans by themselves, the College Scorecard revealed that 10-15% of the students had their parents borrow money for them through federal Parent Plus loan.

The Wall Street Journal analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education and ranked Quinnipiac twelfth in the nation for universities that leave parents with the most college loan debts on the average of $78,439.

However, that does not mean all parents will carry the financial burden for their students.

“My parents took out a plus loan for me but are not (paying) a single penny of it, I will just be paying them in the future for them to pay off the loan,” said Sydney Nelson, a first-year health science studies major.

The NCES also revealed that only 16.8% of Quinnipiac students received Pell grants, federal grants for students who demonstrate financial hardship, with the average of $4,442.

According to College Finance, students whose family income is less than $60,000 per year qualify for Pell grants from some funding to the maximum amount.

Among 15 undergraduate four-year private non-profit universities in Connecticut, Quinnipiac ranks 12th in percentages of Pell grants recipients. Goodwin University ranks the highest with 81.7%, and Fairfield University ranks the lowest with 10.7%.

Reilly was one of the 16.8% of Quinnipiac students who received Pell grants. She said she would not be able to come to Quinnipiac without those and other scholarships from the university.

“My financial background is generally paycheck to paycheck,” Reilly said. “My mother has been unemployed since the initial (COVID-19) shutdown, and my father is a seasonal worker, meaning that he is employed in the spring and summer seasons.”

She said the grants that she received will likely cover the majority of her first two years, but after that, she plans to take out loans.

“I am beyond worried,” Reilly said. “I committed to QU because I was offered excellent financial aid, but I worry that my financial concerns will inevitably interfere with my academic performance.”

Considering the tuition rate, Deasy assumed that before coming to Quinnipiac it was not the most economically diverse university. According to the New York Times, a study by the Equality of Opportunity Project based on millions of anonymous tax records suggests a similar finding.

The study states that the median income of Quinnipiac students’ families is $147,900. According to the study, 66% of the students were from the richest 20% of the country, while 46% were from the top 10%, 28% were from the top 5% and 6.8% were from the top 1%.

Only 2% of the students were from the bottom 20%, which is the lowest rate among universities in Connecticut. According to the study, Quinnipiac ranks 2,362th out of 2,395 universities in terms of share of students whose families make less than $20,000 annually.

“I think the lack of economic diversity on campus has created a difficult barrier for (prospective) students of different economic statuses as they may feel intimidated by the stereotypes and by students on campus who may perpetuate these stereotypes as well,” Deasy said.

She also said that this would create a difficult cycle, and it would make it almost impossible to increase economic diversity on campus.

Hampton said the data the New York Times presented was not up to date.

“They represent one cohort of students who entered in 2009,” Hampton said. “Our economic diversity has improved since that time by nearly seven percentage points.”

She also described Quinnipiac’s economic diversity as “evolving” as the university is constantly reevaluating its aid program to help students at all levels of financial need. 

According to the university’s strategic plan, financial assistance for students from the economically marginalized communities is one of the plans to create an inclusive community. 

Even though Reilly said she had a good experience with the university’s financial aid assistance, she said she could not say the same for other families.

“Since the tuition is so high, other low-income students who struggle with academic disabilities may not be offered the same assistance,” Reilly said.

However, Hampton said the university offers financial aid and in-depth financial aid counseling to all families both before and after admission.