Are you a high school senior who has worked hard in all your classes, volunteered in your community, participated in a sport or club, and dreamed of attending college? If your family is middle class, affording college will be a challenge. Your expected family contribution will be too high to qualify for financial aid that does not include loans. According to the College Board and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculator, a family of 4, making $100,000 a year, would be expected to payout of pocket $9,000-$14,500 a year. This means that the difference between the cost of attendance and the EFC would need to be borrowed by the family. In the article by Sage Journals, Pathways to Financing College, Janice Mccabe and Brandon Jackson state that, “College costs have outpaced inflation and the availability of financial aid, leading students and their families to take on an increasing amount of education-related debt” (Mccabe and Jackson). At a UC school, the average cost of attendance is $35,000. I ask you, what family has $8,000-$14,000 lying around and willing to borrow up to $27,000  to cover the difference between the EFC and the cost of attendance? Not many. However, there are three ways to minimize the burden of paying for college: study hard, apply to private universities, or serve with the U.S military. College for middle class families is a huge possibility if you plan carefully.

            Middle class families are literally stuck in the middle. According to CNBC, middle class families make around $70,000-$182,000 per year (CNBC). While that amount seems like a lot of money, it is not when it comes to paying for college. One has to think of deductions to see the real income. Families making an average of $120,000 are paying Uncle Sam a staggering 24% in taxes, and families making an average of around $178,000 are paying a whopping 32%. The post-tax income for those families comes out to be $92,500 and $121,000. That alone puts those families in the lower middle class family brackets (Berger). Those post-tax incomes may still seem like a lot of money, but there are also other factors you have to consider. A family has to pay for food, gas, electricity, mortgage, insurance, water, clothing, car bills, and so much more. The bills add up leaving the middle class families barely getting by. Image result for struggling to pay taxesMy family can relate to this. We are a middle class family, yet we are barely getting by. Because of taxes and bills, my family had to cancel the landline, Netflix, and cable. By the end of the month, my family does not even have enough money to buy food. My dad drives a 20 year old car, so, no, we are not overspending. Middle Class families do not have money to spare. Yes, they can live comfortably, but that is all. They cannot afford to purchase extra necessities. And when the middle class families have lots of family members, the taxes are barely lightened on the family. My parents makes around $130,000 annually. They net income is about $90,000. And after the other bills, there is almost no extra money to buy necessities like paying for a school track uniform,  school fees, SAT and AP tests, getting a haircut, or buying tickets to support a friend in a theatrical play. Middle class families cannot send their kids to any college they want. The financial aid assistance my family was offered to pay for my brother’s education included $5,500 in student loans, and $27,000 in parent loans. Multiply that by four years, and one understands the terrible position a middle class family is in. However, rich families and poor families can send their children to college. The rich families can send their kids anywhere because they can afford it. Poor families can send their kids anywhere because they will receive financial aid from the government. According to U.S News, families earning less than $60,000 received government grants for more than $10,000 a year for college (U.S News) The report also claims that 44% percent of the low income families received money to pay for all of the tuition, while 35% percent of those families paid less than $2,000 a year for tuition (U.S News). Middle class families have no choice but sending their kids to community colleges because that is what they can afford; they cannot afford to just take out loans whenever they want because it would be another financial burden.

            Despite all that, there are ways for middle class families to pay for college. And as simple as it may sound, you must study hard. No matter how rich or poor you are, if you are smart, colleges will help pay your tuition. In high school, a student needs to make himself stand out when applying to colleges. They need to take Advanced Placement courses. Advanced Placement classes are specialized courses similar to college classes; they prepare the student for college. Taking AP classes give students the benefit of college credit. Image result for student studying hardAccording to Study Point, AP classes improve student’s chances of being admitted, help qualify the student for scholarships, and they help save money because when the student goes to college, they do not have to take the college course that they took in high school (StudyPoint).Image result for ap classes Another way for middle class families to be able to pay for college is to do well on the SAT or ACT tests. Universities like Baylor University, Stevens University of Technology, UCLA, and other state universities offer scholarships that cover tuition or more with SAT scores above 1430 or ACT scores above 30 (PrepScholar). In the study Merit Aid and College Access, Donald E. Heller states, “that merit aid is more likely to be awarded to students from higher income families” (Heller 9). That means that middle class families are most likely to be awarded the merit aid. Receiving good grades and scoring well on the SAT or ACT will definitely help middle class families afford college.

            Another way for middle class families to go to college is to apply to private universities. That may sound scary as most private universities have a price tag of over $40,000 per year. However, fear not because most private schools give financial aid. In a 2017 Research Report, The Effects of Statewide Private School Choice on College Enrollment and Graduation, says that “Private school…programs include vouchers, tax credit scholarships, and education savings accounts. Image result for claremont mckennaOver the past decade, the number of such programs has tripled, and the number of scholarships awarded has more than doubled from about 175,000 to more than 445,000” (Chingos and Kuehn 5). My brother, Phillip Williams, applied to a private college named Claremont McKenna. He was accepted. And because of his well written application, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities,  and top-notch SAT score, Claremont McKenna offered him a full academic scholarship; Claremont McKenna’s tuition price tag is a massive $52,825 per year! All my family has to pay for is transportation because we live next to the college. Time news also states that, “The percentage of freshmen paying full sticker price at private colleges fell to an all-time low of just 12% during the past year” (Clark).When applying to colleges, do not skip out on the privates as they will most likely give you scholarships.

             A way to afford college, if you’re not the best at school, is to serve with the U.S military. A student may join the military and receive full ride scholarships to specific military chosen universities after serving for a certain amount of time.Image result for us military After serving, soldiers may go back to college for free. That is the basic way to get free education. However, there is a special military program, ROTC[1], where middle class families can send their kids to college debt free. The ROTC “programs were…designed to lead for the preparation of reserve officers available to lead a citizen army…in an emergency” (Lyons and Masland 3). ROTC  pays for  school’s tuition or room and board no matter the cost. ROTC gives the student a 4 year or 3 year full academic scholarship to the student’s university of choice plus a monthly allowance for personal needs. After getting a degree, you serve with the specific military branch you chose for a certain amount of time, and the ROTC program automatically gives you the rank of second lieutenant.The student also has the option to push on to graduate or a professional school with ROTC after serving. To get into ROTC, you must be confident, educated, and have great academics. Image result for rotc scholarshipMy brother, Phillip Williams, also received the ROTC scholarship on top of the Claremont McKenna academic scholarship. Receiving two colossal scholarships, Claremont McKenna gave Phillip a deal most families could only dream of. Claremont McKenna will pay for his tuition during the first year, then for years 2-4, the ROTC scholarship will cover his tuition and personal needs while Claremont will pay for his room and board. And because he will be a second lieutenant, he will receive military benefits like good housing loans, a pension, and free health and dental care. The military is a great way to receive free education.

            There are many different ways for middle class families to pay for college. In the world as we know it now, “a college education has become a necessity in today’s society in order to get a recognizable job” (Adams 1). Everyone, especially middle class families, should have the chance to go to a great university. Until the law is changed and college made affordable, students from middle class families wanting to go to a four year university, must study hard, apply to private universities, or serve with the military.  Go ahead, dream big: college is an option!














Works Cited

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Are you in the Middle Class?” The Balance, The Balance, 24 Apr. 2018,


Adams. “SHOULD COLLEGE TUITION BE FREE?” Andrews University, Andrews University, 2018, This is a scholarly source.


Barge, Mary Ann. “85 Colleges With Full-Ride Scholarships.” Should You Go to College? 4 Pros and 3 Cons, PrepScholar, 27 Nov. 2017, 12:00 PM,


Barshay, Jill. “Low-Income Americans’ Kids Can Go to College for Free.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 20 July 2015, 10:10 a.m,


Berger, Rob. “The New 2018 Federal Income Tax Brackets & Rates.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Mar. 2018,


Chingos, Matthew M, and Daniel Kuehn. The Effects of Statewide Private School Choice on College Enrollment and Graduation Evidence from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Urban Institute, 2017, /sites/default/files/publication/93471/2017_12_05_the_effects_of_statewide_private_school_choice_on_college_enrollment_and_graduation_finalized.pdf. This is a scholarly source.

Clark, Kim. “College Tuition Increase: Most Students Don’t Pay Full Price | Money.” Time, Time, 15 May 2017,

College Board. “Expected Family Contribution Calculator.” BigFuture – Get Ready for College – College Planning, Financial Aid, Educator Resources, College Board, 2018, This is a credible source.

Elkins, Kathleen. “How Much You Have to Earn to Be Considered Middle Class in Every State.” CNBC, CNBC, 30 Mar. 2017,

Heller, Donald E. State Financial Aid and College Access. Research Report. University of Winsconson, 2006. This source is a scholarly source.

IRS. “An Official Website of the United States Government.” Internal Revenue Service, This is a credible source.

Lyons, Gene M., and John W. Masland. Education and Military Leadership a Study of the R.O.T.C. Princeton University Press, 2015. This is a scholarly source.

Mccabe, Janice, and Brandon A. Jackson. “Pathways to Financing College.” Social Currents, vol. 3, no. 4, 2016, pp. 367–385., doi:10.1177/2329496516636404. This is a scholarly source.

Study Point. “AP Classes: To Take or Not to Take?” StudyPoint, 2017,

[1] ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Program. It was created by the National Defense Act in 1916.