Obstacles to Opportunity: Increasing College Success by Understanding & Addressing Older Students’ Costs Beyond Tuition

Higher education offers millions of people the opportunity to improve their financial well-being. However, higher education is prohibitively expensive and can saddle people with insurmountable debt. Costs beyond tuition—such as housing, food, child care, and transportation—are large, essential components of the cost of attending college for students. In order to better understand how these living costs add up and vary, this report offers estimates of costs beyond tuition for older students between the ages of 25 – 45, who make up roughly one-third of college students and face unique barriers to college access and completion. The report shows that the real cost of college for older students is higher than commonly understood, examines older students’ challenges with financial aid and public benefits programs, and offers policy recommendations to address costs beyond tuition and improve college access and success for older students.

Driving Home Costs Beyond Tuition: A New Look at Older Students’ Challenges Affording Housing

For many students, the real cost of college is even higher than commonly understood. Although rising tuition costs limit college affordability, living costs—such as housing, food, and transportation—are equally essential for students striving to afford and complete college. This report examines older students’ particular challenges to college completion, describes how current measurements of costs beyond tuition do not adequately reflect older students’ experiences, and offers new estimates of older students’ spending on housing, which is typically the single greatest cost older students face.