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The rising cost of a college degree coupled with an expectation for families to contribute more of their income to cover that cost is creating a knowledge gap in the state, according to a report released today by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

"Jobs of the future require postsecondary education, yet our report shows college is financially out of reach for many Pennsylvania families," said Joan Benso, the Harrisburg-based advocacy group's president and CEO.

The report recommends the state launch a scholarship program for students from low-income families that would pay all remaining costs to attend a community college or state university once other financial aid is exhausted. Another idea it suggests is indexing tuition to a student's or family's income so that lower-income students pay less than those better off financially.

The State Board of Education's Council of Higher Education on Wednesday issued a paper that echoes the partnership's concern about college affordability.

Noting college costs influences students' decisions to enroll in college or stay in college, state board members called on policymakers to consider such ideas as providing more need-based aid, expanding access to community colleges, and encouraging efforts to help middle and high school students prepare to enroll in college and know how to access financial aid.

"If Pennsylvania wishes to increase its college going and graduation rates, especially among its lower income populations, the cost that students and their families bear must be addressed," the paper states.

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