The Impact of Financial Assistance

Updated May 14, 2022

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The Impact of Financial Assistance essay

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This paper will discuss the issues with financing education that many college students face, along with the distribution of financial assistance based on family income along with race and gender. This paper will also show how communities come together to give to those in need of assistance when it comes to financing their education. Different theories of sociology such as the conflict theory and functionalist theory will be presented to help readers understand how society can affect college students. These different theories will also help readers understand how the world is constantly changing around mankind, how society can be perceived differently and how everyone has different circumstances to face when it comes to college.

The Impact of Financial Assistance

The newspaper article selected is Michael Bloomberg’s: Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid, from the New York Times. This article caught my attention because Bloomberg focuses on aiding students that qualify to attend elite colleges but struggle to pay for the tuition such as he did. Bloomberg’s article also expresses a mix between the conflict theory and functionalism theory.

While both the conflict theory and functionalism theory relate to helping students finance their education they are different in their own way. The conflict theory explains the various aspects of our social world by looking at which groups have power and benefit from a particular social arrangement (Mooney, 2007, p.1). Throughout Bloomberg’s article he expresses how discrimination and social inequality students encounter when it comes to financial aid. This theorist group is more focused on expressing the tension between social classes, rather than the theorist group working to create a more equal environment. The functionalist theory focuses more on addressing the problems occurring, but also making the initiative to change the disbursement of scholarship funds by coming together and creating their own foundation.

In the beginning of the article, Bloomberg explains his past to the audience and how he was financially able to make it through college. He expresses how fortunate he was to use the National Defense Student Loan to finance his education due to the help of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid which is also known as FAFSA. The National Defense Student Loan is a low-interest loan for both undergraduate and graduate students which has an interest rate of 5% (FAFSA, 2019). The loan is made with government funds, and the school one is attending contributes a share; Loans can be repaid to the school directly (FAFSA).

Bloomberg also states how “[his] Hopkins diploma opened up doors that otherwise would have been closed and allowed [him] to live the American dream” (Pg. A19). The reason for Bloomeberg being inspired to obtain a degree is due to how those who graduate with a degree benefit more than those who do not. For instance, someone with a bachelor’s degree earns almost a million dollars more during their lifetime as compared to someone with a high school degree (Thibeault, 2013, p.1). With discovering how scarce money is for those that are in need of financial assistance, and how celebrities give back to the community, this enabled the determination of the theory groups.

The theory groups that Michael Bloomberg’s article fits best into is the functionalist theory and the conflict theory. One characteristic that both theories share is how they work to assist students with financing their education. For instance, the conflict theory is focusing on how social inequality is most present with the distribution of financial aid funds. This is most evident with studies from Mark Kantrowitz (2001) in his analysis of The Distribution of Grants and Scholarships by Race. In his analysis, he discovered that “65.2 % of students that receive financial aid are Caucasian compared to the 24.8% of students that are mixed or any race other than Caucasian, this is based solely off of race not of the income these races have (p. 5)”.

This creates a clear image of how unevenly the funds are distributed between individuals of different races. In his article for the New York Times, Michael Bloomberg explained to the public how financial need is scarce for those who are accepted to elite universities, which is an example of the conflict theory. This expresses the conflict theory due to the how distribution of funds are not benefiting the entire group of individuals (Mooney, 2007, p.2). The New York Times even has an article on how more students in universities come from the top one percent of the social class versus the number of students that come from the bottom sixty percent of the social class (Aisch, 2017, p.1). The reason for the difference in percentages is due to the line of division in the social classes when it comes to attending college because it is based off family income (Bobbitt & Choy, 2000, p.3). In many cases, students who wish to attend a university are also wanting to benefit from the full experience universities have to offer, such as clubs, organizations, athletic departments, etc. With the benefits of attending a high-quality university, the tuition is automatically higher (Aisch, 2017, p. 2).

While students coming from any part on the social class scale prefer the amenities that come with a high-spending college, only the students from the higher end of the scale can fully pay for these amenities (Caskey 2018, p. 9). The high cost of attending a university, commonly leads to students struggling to pay for their education which in turn leads to them being in debt due to loans, not mention it causing an increase of social inequality at the university (Caskeey, 2018, p. 47). The reason for social inequality is that many students are not offered financial assistance, nor do they qualify even when they have a true need for assistance (Caturianas, Užpelkienė,& Migliarini, 2017, p. 5).

First year college students are required to fill out FASFA, which is commonly based off the parent’s income (FAFSA, 2019). Race is also a question on FASFA, this is where it can hinder the students’ ability to gain financial assistance when funding their own education, without the support of the parents. Studies have even shown that Caucasians make roughly $80,000 more than individuals of any other race (Fontenot, 2018, p.19). This represents social inequality because while the parent’s income may be more than those of other races, the one paying for the education (the student) does not make this amount of money and cannot afford the high tuition of colleges. The opposing view of inequality claims a majority of financial aid is given to Caucasians rather than other races who are in more need (Kantrowitz,2011, p. 1). While other races may be more in need of assistance based off the parent’s income, they are not actually in more than need than any other student who is paying for their own education. Any student who files taxes by themselves and has a low source of income, will most likely receive some type of financial assistance regardless of their race (Kantrowitz, 2011, p. 19).

In Bloomberg’s article, he also expresses a strong belief in donating money back to the school, for scholarship purposes, to help students in need (A19). The kindness of giving back to the community represents the functionalism theory throughout the article. Functionalism is where society is a system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole (Mooney, 2007, p.1). The functionalism theory helps students fulfill their dreams based on the assistance from their community. This is best visible by the impact that local scholarships have on individuals and how the community comes together to help students fulfill their dreams (Patel & Rudd, 2012, P. 29).

With the assistance of town locals donating money for a scholarship, “Full-time enrollment increased 4.1% in the first semester and 6.0% in the second semester” (Patel & Rudd, 2012, P.29). The reason for such an increase in numbers is that students are receiving the financial assistance for tuition that they are unable to qualify for at the university level, which allows them to be more financially able to attend and pay for the cost of attending the university (Patel & Rudd, 2012, P.29). The assistance from the community represents the functionalist theory due to how the society is a “system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole” (Mooney, 2007, P. 1). With the community coming together to create a state of balance with financial assistance, this creates a more attainable environment when it comes to financing an education.

With the assistance of the conflict theory along with the functionalist theory, the article Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid, helps readers understand how the impact of financial aid is relevant to sociology. The relevance to society is having the ability to better understand how financial aid, along with income and social status can affect an individual. The human social interaction with this article is how individuals such as Michael Bloomberg are taking other people into account when it comes to dispersing their money, meaning, how individuals are donating their money to give to those who need it more, rather than spend the money on unnecessary items. With the world constantly changing, both the conflict theory and functionalist theory allow us to understand the progression of change.

For instance, the limited amount of jobs that are available to those without college degrees are becoming more limited by each passing day. This represents change in society because in the past, many jobs were available to those without degrees. The reason for this is that people did not need certain qualifications or as much training as they do today. With the technological advances that society has made along with the cost of production, this is the leading reason to why producers require a degree or some type of certification for employers. Another factor in society that has changed with time is the cost of education. This change in all of these factors, has been the leading cause in creating such a division in society along with the social classes.

With understanding how different theories such as the conflict theory and functionalist theory are present in society, it allows individuals to be the change they want to see in the world. Understanding the theories of society also allows individuals to witness the way society can change and how theories can relate to society and human social interaction. With articles such as Michael Bloomberg’s, society is given an insight on what is occurring in the nation that they are unaware of. With the help of these articles, citizens can work together to make society along with social norms reachable for everyone.


  1. Aisch, George. 2017. New York Times. Some Colleges Have More Students from the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours. Pg. 1&2. Retrieved on Jan. 18, 2019. (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/18/upshot/some-colleges-have-more-students-from-the-top-1-percent-than-the-bottom-60.html?module=inline ).
  2. American Council on Education. 2016. Federal and Financial Aid Policy and College Behavior. Retrieved Feb. 11, 2019. (https://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/Paper-Archibald-Feldman-Federal-Financial-Aid-Policy.pdf).
  3. Bloomberg, Michael. 2018. New York Times: Michael Bloomberg: Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid. Pg. A19. Retrieved Jan. 18, 2019. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/18/opinion/bloomberg-college-donation-financial-aid.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feducation&action=click&contentCollection=education®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=21&pgtype=sectionfront).
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  5. Caskey, John. 2018. Swarthmore College. The Awkward Economics of Private Liberal Arts Colleges. Pg. 9 & 49. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2019. (https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/sites/ilr.cornell.edu/files/CHERI%20WP181.pdf).
  6. Caturianas, Dovydas & Migliarini, Valentina & Užpelkienė, Lima. 2017. The role of education for social inequality in modern societies (with a special perspective on EU Member States). Pg. 5. Retrieved Jan. 18, 2019. (http://nesetweb.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-role-of-education-for-social-inequality.pdf).
  7. Choy, Susan & Bobbitt, Larry. 200. Low-Income Students: Who They Are and They Pay for Their Education. Pg.3. Retrieved on Feb.12, 2019 (https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/2000169.pdf )
  8. FAFSA. 2019. Grants and Scholarships. Retrieved Feb. 11,2019 (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships).
  9. FinAid Authors. 2019.“FinAid | Scholarships | How to Win a Merit Scholarship.” FinAid – Financial Aid Advice. Retrieved on 11 Feb. 11, 2019. (www.finaid.org/scholarships/winning.phtml).
  10. Fontenot, Kayla and Semega, Jessica and Kollar, Melissa. 2018. Income and Poverty in the United States:2017. Pg. 19. Retrieved on Feb. 11, 2019. (https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.pdf).
  11. Kantrowitz, Mark. 2011. The Distribution of Grants and Scholarships by Race. retrieved on Feb. 11, 2019. Pg. 5,19. (http://www.finaid.org/scholarships/20110902racescholarships.pdf).
  12. Mooney, Knox. 2007. The Three Main Sociological Perspectives. Pages 1-2. Retrieved on Feb 12, 2019. (https://laulima.hawaii.edu/access/content/user/kfrench/sociology/The%20Three%20Main%20Sociological%20Perspectives.pdf).
  13. Patel, Reshma and Rudd, Timothy. 2012. Can Scholarships Alone Help Students Succeed? Page 19 & 29. Retrieved on Feb.12, 2019. (https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED540689.pdf).
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  15. Thibeault, Russ. (2013). How Valuable is Your College Degree? Business NH Magazine, 30(6),24. Pg. 1. Retrieved on Feb. 15, 2019. (http://leonardo.lee.edu/login?auth=leelearnezproxy&url=http://search.ebscohost.com.leonardo.lee.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=b9h&AN=88004613&site=eds-live).
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