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Financial Aid

Despite jarring news headlines depicting students with six-figure debt levels, the average student borrower’s debt burden is not necessarily devastating.

Among graduates in 2011 who borrowed to pay for higher education, the average loan debt at graduation was $26,600, according to the Project on Student Debt. Only 1.5 percent of borrowers owed $100,000 or more in 2007-2008, according to an analysis by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors Network.

For a school to operate at peak efficiency—and best serve students—it is necessary for various administrative departments to understand the purpose and daily operations of other offices. In particular, the activities and regulations that impact the financial aid office can have widespread effects on the rest of the campus. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help all departments work cohesively with the financial aid office:

Casual observers of the 2013 National Association of Student Aid Administrators conference in Las Vegas this summer may have felt as if they were seeing double, with all the talk of “prior-prior year” income tax.

College students with no loan debt are more likely to lead a richer social life that involves partying, studying less, and forming relationships that will last long after graduation, a pair of University of Indiana sociologists says.

Stable funding of federal Pell Grants, one of the nation’s main financial aid programs for low-income students, would increase affordability and accessibility, according to many groups with a stake in higher education. But despite its decades-long history of assisting financially needy students, the program also faces perennial threats to its funding.

The NASFAA task force provides recommendations for smarter borrowing:

As student loan debt levels and default rates in the United States continue to climb, consumers remain concerned about the accessibility and affordability of higher education. The average overall loan debt for bachelor’s degree recipients is fairly manageable (about $26,500 for the class of 2011, according to The Institute for College Access and Success). Still, students and families are shouldering a greater portion of the cost of college through loans than they ever have before.

Most financial aid offices are already beginning to receive appeals from families looking to improve their aid awards. A recent Wall Street Journal article encouraged families who were unhappy with their aid offer to call the aid office “as soon as possible.” Financial aid appeals have been a regular part of the aid awarding landscape for some time now, but the way institutions respond to appeals varies widely. How your own institution responds can affect enrollment, net tuition revenue, and your school’s reputation in the marketplace.

Higher ed organizations are bracing for potential cuts in student loan funding and the trickle down of major cuts to agencies that support the bulk of institutional research and development.

  • Loan limits would mirror those in the Direct Loan Program. New borrowers could borrow IDEA loans up to the combined amount they could have borrowed from the subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford programs for their academic level (except that total would all be unsubsidized.) Graduate and professional students who could have borrowed an additional amount above their unsubsidized Stafford eligibility under the Grad PLUS program would be able to borrow that same amount in additional IDEA funds.