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Articles: Financial Aid

Consumer advocacy groups support new financial-aid payment rules that have raised concerns.

Colleges and universities using third-party providers to process students’ Title IV payments face changes aimed at giving students more choice in receiving financial aid dollars. A new federal proposal could especially affect institutions that issue tuition refunds directly to students’ debit cards.

If it’s finalized as is by Nov. 1, The Department of Education proposed rule on campus debit cards and Title IV payments will have a major impact on third-party service providers.

Some of the regulations in the rule include restrictions on fees and limitations on access to student information. It would also require schools to issue paper checks as an option, even if they’ve already gone paperless.

Through short videos on Financial Aid TV, parents of prospective and returning students at Santa Fe College can learn more about their financial aid options, education tax credits and other money management topics.

Loan default rates and an expanding focus on student success have made strong student financial literacy efforts a higher ed norm. But as students and their parents continue to grapple with paying for school, money management lessons from colleges are becoming a family affair.

Aaron Mahl is a consultant with Scannell & Kurz.

For many, Jan. 1 signifies a day of great college football bowl games, highly caloric leftover holiday food, and time with family and friends ringing in the New Year. However, for those working in financial aid offices at colleges or universities across the country, the start of the new year signals the beginning of financial aid season.

In 2013, nearly seven in 10 borrowers owed less than $25,000 in college debt, according to the College Board. (Click to enlarge)

Might the cliche of the forever-indebted college student someday become a fable?

According to a new College Board report, total college student debt for 2013-14 is down by $8.7 billion from the previous school year, with students having borrowed $106 billion. This is the third consecutive year American student borrowing has decreased.

A majority of higher ed leaders expect modest to significant increases in tuition revenue in 2015. (Click to enlarge chart)

Multiple forces are pushing institutions to change from the financial status quo. Institutions are feeling more pressure to advocate for state higher ed funding, prove their value to students and support the simplification of debt repayment. Yet some campus leaders might just be fine with the opportunities that scrutiny can bring, and in many cases, administrators are meeting those challenges.

There are few economic challenges that move the dial in America quite like the skyrocketing costs of higher ed. From early morning pundits to late night talk shows the student and family debt burden issue is clear and ever present.

In the view of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren - "Rising student-loan debt is an economic emergency…Forty million people are dealing with $1.2 trillion in outstanding student debt. It's stopping young people from buying homes, from buying cars and from starting small businesses. We need to take action."

Located in Myrtle Hall, the Pratt Institute’s Bursar and Financial Aid offices have taken a holistic approach to serving students.

Managing personal finance is difficult enough for working professionals. For college students, it can be almost impossible. Part of the reason is that there are multiple finance-related aspects to higher education, and they have different, often confusing languages, says Nedi Goga, executive director of student financial services and compliance at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Three separate surveys suggest that students and parents give strong consideration to advertised price. (Click to enlarge)

Have net price calculators, merit scholarships and tuition discounts rendered sticker price meaningless? Not according to numerous surveys on the topic.

The findings of three separate surveys over the past two years on the topic of cost and decision to apply suggest that students and parents give strong consideration to advertised price. A 2012 studentPOLL survey, a joint venture between the College Board and Art & Science Group, reported that more than one-half of families ruled out colleges based on sticker price alone.

The number of students identifying as belonging to a community of color has doubled since Frankin & Marshall College has invested more in need-based aid and phased out merit scholarships.

Financial aid is in a state of flux, but an institution’s size and selectivity offer clues to what kind of student assistance gets prioritized.

Some public flagships and less-selective private schools are using increased merit aid to lure higher achievers from more prestigious private schools, while some highly selective colleges and universities are phasing out merit aid as they give more need-based assistance to bring lower-income students to campus.

Institutions that are successful in preventing loan defaults make it a campuswide effort, according to a recent survey by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS).

Nine community college administrators from institutions of varying sizes and locations were asked about traits of their borrowers and defaulters, as well as about default prevention efforts.

Joseph Trentacoste is assistant vice president of Student Services at Mercy College in New York.

With national student debt at a stunning $1.2 trillion and financial pressure playing a key factor in retention, colleges must take the initiative to help students maximize opportunities for financial aid. Yet many colleges have downsized their financial aid offices and automated various functions.

Streamlining the awarding and processing of student loans—Federal Perkins as well as institutional loans—began at the Illinois Institute of Technology with a simple question and a frustrating answer. “It started because I asked, ‘What is the process?’” recalls Jackie Anderson, associate director of student accounting. “No one really knew.”

Driving college loan defaults down

The coming change in how student loan default rates are calculated may mean bad news for some colleges and universities.

With the new calculations, the rate at which a group of students later defaults on loan payments will increase for most institutions, and schools with a particular default rate for three consecutive years will lose the ability to give Pell Grants. That’s why many are seeing this as the ideal time to look at how default prevention services are managed.

“We include in our emails a link to a brief video that explains that we are counselors, not collectors, working on behalf of the college the borrower attended, and that we work with borrowers and their loan servicers to resolve their loan payment issues. The video invites the borrower to call us.”

—Craig P. Anderson, senior vice president, business development, USA Funds

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