Ernest Ezeugo wrote for the Hechinger Report about the leverage and collections policies that disproportionately inhibit low-income students from finishing college:
Students who have outstanding balances that prevent them from finishing college are often short just a few dollars and a couple of credits.
Even unpaid library fines and balances on campus cards can trigger a windfall of consequences that push thousands of students into debt and degree-less purgatory every year.
Amid an increased focus on these students, the University Innovation Alliance recently announced a round of so-called completion grants for students from low-income backgrounds who are close to graduating. This group of 11 large public universities says individual payment shortfalls of $1,000 or less put 4,000 of its Pell-eligible seniors at risk of dropping out. The Alliance says it drew its inspiration from the Panther Retention Grants program that Georgia State University started in 2011, when 1,000 students were dropping out every semester because of unpaid tuition of less than $1,500 each. Georgia State says the program has helped 8,000 students since 2011.