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Higher education for all
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University of Iowa officials say that keeping higher education affordable and accessible to all students is a high priority, even in challenging economic times.
"Access and affordability are the highest priorities for the UI administration," says Mark Warner, UI assistant provost for enrollment management and director of student financial aid. "Any resident of Iowa should be allowed the opportunity to attend and succeed at the UI."
The goal of the UI Office of Student Financial Aid is to turn these opportunities into realities, Warner says.
UI assistant provost for enrollment management and director of student financial aid
"In many cases borrowing may very well be an option for a student to realize their dream of leaving here with a UI degree, and if that is the case, it will be one of the best investments the student will likely make in their lifetime," he adds.
However, Warner says that many people are surprised to learn that 41 percent of the undergraduate graduating class of 2012 left the UI debt free. To read about a UI student from Sioux City, Iowa, who will graduate this May debt free, read the related story on Alfredo Garcia at now.uiowa.edu/2013/02/first-generation-latino-leader.
And for the 59 percent of students who did borrow, the average student debt was $26,296.
"Most news stories that you read tie this average student debt to all graduating seniors," Warner says. "When you factor in the numbers of students who left here with no debt, the average debt would be closer to $15,600. We need to repeat anytime we can that a significant number of UI graduates are debt free when leaving."
Statistics a year ago from the Project on Student Debt reported that nationally, 34 percent of graduates from four-year universities and colleges left with no debt, and the percent of all Iowa graduates with no debt was 28 percent. The UI 41 percent compares quite favorably, Warner notes.
The UI offers close to $50 million in scholarships for undergraduate scholarships and grants. Close to another $28 million is expected to be received from private sources by undergraduate, graduate, and professional students during fiscal year 2013, Warner says.
"These are the scholarships and grants, combined with federal grants, that make Iowa affordable," Warner says. "These are the grants and scholarships that help generate a net price for many students that is quite lower than the total costs."
Helping students, parents gain financial savvy
UI officials say that many parents and students have misconceptions about the cost of higher education. With that in mind, the UI has created a number of resources and opportunities for parents and students to gain more knowledge about the process and to be as financially savvy as possible.
"They look only at the total costs without considering how they may be assisted with federal, state, university, and private financial aid programs," Warner says.
The UI directs parents and students to the UI Net Price Calculator which can be accessed through the UI Office of Student Financial Aid website, www.uiowa.edu/financial-aid/calculator, or though the UI Admissions website, www.admissions/uiowa.edu/finances.
The Net Price Calculator allows parents and their prospective students to enter financial information about their family and to also enter information about the student’s academic record, such as ACT score, High School GPA, rank in class, and other factors.
"This information can then provide an estimated 'net price' figure to the family which is defined as total costs of attendance less any estimated grants and scholarships they might qualify for during their first year at the UI," Warner says. "For those who qualify for grants and scholarships from federal, state, university, and private sources, the net price is what the family needs to come up with from other sources. These other sources may be from the family and relatives, but also most likely from federal student and parent loans and work-study."
The UI Office of Student Financial Aid usually begins awarding new first-time, first year admitted students in March preceding their freshman year.
"First and foremost, the UI will award students any and all grants and scholarships the student qualifies for, and then after that, the student will be awarded work-study and federal loans," Warner says. "This order of awarding helps minimize the need for federal student loans. "
Second, once the student is awarded, the UI OSFA sends an award notification via email informing the student of the total estimated cost to attend the UI along with the awarded grants and scholarships, which results in the net price to the student (similar to the information provided by the Net Price Calculator.)
This award notification will then let the student know of their work-study eligibility as well as their federal loan eligibility. Last, the parent is informed of the option to borrow through the federal Parent Loan for Dependent Student (PLUS) loan.
"This Award Notification allows the family to see that the UI is indeed affordable," Warner says.
The UI financial aid awarding philosophy is that “students who demonstrate the greatest financial need will receive the most amount of financial aid and will receive priority consideration for need based grants and scholarships."
The start of the 2012-13 academic year the UI OSFA employed two half time graduate assistants who are available to counsel and advise students on money management, including helpful tips on budgeting limited resources. These individuals are also available for loan counseling.
See related story, Student loan savvy: UI offers tools for students to understand and manage debt.
Warner says that parents and students will continue to rely upon a strong blend of university, state, federal, and private financial aid resources to make their educations possible.
"A strong commitment to access and affordability comes from the very top of this university from President Mason," Warner says. "We ask students who are enrolled here with and without the help of financial aid to carry this same message to brothers and sisters and friends in their local communities. The value and quality of a UI education is available to all students who are admitted and enroll at the UI, and the university, federal, state, and private financial aid resources are available to assist those who may be for whatever reason financially challenged."