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Prospective US College Students Face Greater Financial Burden

Getting a college education is part of the "American Dream." In recent years, many colleges were working to bring about greater racial and economic diversity among their student populations by awarding promising students from low income families substantial grants and sometimes a free ride. But now, as the U.S. recession deepens, and college tuition is at an all time high, more and more students are finding it difficult to get financial aid, and thus to pay for college.

Like many of her peers at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, 12th grader Oluyinka Oluwashola is worried, not about getting into college, but paying for it.

"I would consider going to a college that's very cheap, 'cause like if I wanted to go to a private college, that's a lot of college expenses that my parents may not be able to afford, so I don't want to put a heavy burden on them," she said.

Tuition, lodging and food at some private colleges can now cost more than $50,000 a year compared to an average of $6,500 a year at public universities in the individual states. But students at state schools have to be residents of the state to get the low price.

The federal government is making or guaranteeing about $65 billion in student loans for the current academic year, up 18 percent from last year. Frequently that's not enough, and private loans from banks can be difficult to get.

Students say they feel financially strapped.

Now, many college applicants are scrambling for alternative sources of cash, such as jobs and private scholarships.

Free seminars help students navigate the complicated forms needed to apply for loans, grants and other financial aid.

They also help parents like Martha Vaughn. Her 17-year-old daughter is applying to college.

"The financial situation in the world is affecting us all, and we have to be in tune to it, and as far as her being a well-rounded person, I want her to realize what we are going through too," she noted.

For many students, attending college will now shift from where they want to go, to where they can afford to go.

"When I told her I got accepted to Utica College, which is a private college, she was like, 'how am I gonna find money for you to go to a private college?' I was like , mom, it's not like i'm gonna go. I just got accepted," added Oluyinka Oluwashola.

According to a survey by The University of California Los Angeles, only 61 percent of students are attending their first-choice college. Many of those students cite financial issues as the primary reason.