Syracuse University Junior Nathaniel Bryant had goals of starting a nonprofit company to aid poor children after graduation, but now he's not sure he'll even make it to school next year thanks to the high cost of college.
Even with his financial aid, Bryant said he can't afford the cost.
"I worked so hard to get here, but because of a couple green pieces of paper I can't achieve what I want to achieve. It's very disheartening," Bryant said. "I might have to take off like maybe a year, or maybe a semester to work to get the money to come back just to finish the semester. "
So Bryant isn't just worried about finishing term papers. He's also concerned about completing school -- and he's not alone in his predicament. Bryant is one of 400 Syracuse students in danger of dropping out because of trouble paying their tuition and school fees.
"Many more students are coming to our financial aid office telling us about special circumstances," said Youlonda Copeland Morgan, associate vice president of enrollment at Syracuse University. "It's just very difficult to sit and watch students give up on their dreams of graduating."
Complicating the matter is the fact much of the school's financial aid money comes from its endowment, which was heavily invested in the stock market.
Syracuse has been watching its endowment shrink in the recession. Over the past three months, the school said it has lost $170 million.
The story is the same across the country. Michigan State and Duke University have set up emergency task forces to help students manage their financial concerns.
"More than ever before it's about taking action as a family, because you can't rely on a financial aid office, a state government, and even the federal government to figure this out for you," said cityofcollegedreams.org publisher Ben Kaplan.
It's a scary prospect for families who have watched the median family income increase by nearly 150 percent during the last 25 years, only to have college tuition and fees skyrocket by 439 percent during the same time period, according the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.