The good news: Colleges recognize that a degree is now beyond the means of many middle class kids.

The bad news: It’s hard to see how the amounts proposed will help significantly, given the rising tuition and multiplying fees.

As soaring college costs saddle more students with debt, colleges are increasingly earmarking aid for students who can fall through the cracks of existing programs: those who aren’t from poor families, can’t necessarily maintain a 4.0 GPA or hit a three-pointer at the buzzer.

California started a scholarship program this school year to help such middle-class students whose families earn as much as $150,000 a year. Pennsylvania rolled out the Ready to Succeed Scholarship, offering as much as $2,000 in aid for residents whose families earn up to $110,000, while Minnesota added money to its state grant program last year to provide up to $5,000 to an additional 2,200 students whose families earn between $60,000 and $120,000.

And individual schools including Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., and Vincennes University in Indiana are beefing up their aid offerings to students who fall into that middle zone as well.

“Someone who would have been viewed as able to pay a decade ago without taking on too much debt, now those families are taking on too much debt and we need to try to help,” said Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

Scholarship money has long been targeted at the poor, exceptionally bright or athletic. But when family earnings are a little too high for funding through the federal Pell Grant program aimed at low-income students, or students’ grade point averages and test scores are a little too low for merit-based aid, middle-income families often turn to loans to make up the difference.

…Nationally, published tuition and fees at private, nonprofit colleges increased by 10% in the past five years and rose by 17% at public schools, according to the College Board. <strong>Dangling extra cash can also help sway those families that are beginning to question the value of a high-priced undergraduate education...