CORVALLIS - A congressional report detailing how the lack of need-based financial assistance threatens low-income college students has prompted Oregon State University to host a symposium to explore the issues.

The event, "Access Denied: Restoring the Nation's Commitment to Equal Educational Opportunity," opens at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 4, in OSU's LaSells Stewart Center at 26th Street and Western Boulevard. The symposium is free and open to the public. For information, contact Carmen Carter at 541-737-0777 or by e-mail at

"Financial need is one of the top barriers to higher education," said Kate Peterson, OSU director of financial aid. "Increasing numbers of students are graduating from high school academically prepared for college, but rising costs and inadequate need-based financial aid programs are denying these students access to higher education."

"Access Denied," a report by the U.S. Department of Education's Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, concludes the cost of college has risen as a percentage of income only for poor families. As a result, the report said, "the opportunity to pursue a bachelor's degree is all but ruled out for increasing numbers of low-income students."

Such students attend four-year colleges at half the rate of their equally qualified high-income peers, according to the report.

Low-income students also are more likely to work part time, take on heavy debt, go to college part-time and drop out, Peterson said. The report blames a huge shift in the priorities and practices of college financial aid.

"The purpose of our workshop is to inform folks of these issues and get a discussion started."

Larry Roper, OSU vice provost for student affairs, will give opening remarks. Roper will be followed by Brian Fitzgerald, staff director of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

Fitzgerald will discuss his committee's most recent report, "Empty Promises, The Myth of College Access in America."

Speaker Donald Heller, an associate professor and senior research associate at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University helped create the original "Access Denied" report. During his session, Heller will discuss affordability and access in higher education.

Barriers to higher education in Oregon will explored in "Access Denied - The Oregon Story," a presentation by Tom Mortenson, senior scholar at the Pell Center for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington, D.C. and publisher of Postsecondary Education Opportunity.

Kathleen Hynes grants division director of the Oregon Student Assistance Commission and John Klacik, associate director of financial aid for the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board will analyze the financial aid situations in California, Oregon and Washington.

Jeff Svejcar, executive director of the Oregon Student Assistance Commission will join OSU's Larry Roper in presenting closing remarks.

The symposium is sponsored by the OSU Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, OSU Student Affairs and the Oregon Student Assistance Commission.

Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.


Kate Peterson, 541-737-2241