Study shows increased need for financial aid

By Matt Daray

 

Students across the nation are turning to loans and grants more often to help pay for college.

According to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, 71.4 percent of students in the country received some type of financial aid during the 2011- 2012 school year. The study, released Aug. 20, was conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

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Data from the study indicated that the number of students needing aid has risen from the 2007-2008 school year, when 66 percent of students required some form of aid.

These numbers coincide with Southern Illinois University’s data, which shows a rising need for aid. University officials say they are doing everything possible to make the university as affordable as possible for students as aid turns from a necessity to a need.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said financial aid is important for all students to have because the cost of college has become high.

“I think the president has really affirmed for everybody the importance of a college education, that it is the single most important investment students can make in their futures,” she said. “But at the same time, I believe that   Cheng said it’s important for students to have

financial-aid options available, and the university is taking as many steps as possible to keep costs down. She said a variety of aid options are available to students, including scholarships, grants and loan management.

In 2012, SIU had 19,086 students who required some type of financial aid, with 14,401 of those students being undergraduates. The number of undergraduates and graduates consisted of 86 percent of the student body for the 2011-12 school year.

Terri Harfst, director of financial aid, said in an email that the number of students requiring aid has increased over the past few years.

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“Over a three-year period, we have seen an increase of 3 percent of our students receive financial aid,” she said.

Harfst said financial aid comes from three sources: federal aid, which consists of Pell Grants and student loans; state aid, which consists of Illinois Student Assistance Commission grants; and institutional aid, which consists of grants and scholarships the university provides. She said she does not anticipate an increase in federal or state aid, but said the university will continue to provide institutional aid to those who need it most.

The university has expanded on the amount of aid it provides, such as increasing the number of scholarships provided to students, Harfst said.

“SIU has always had a tremendous interest from high achievers, but we always exhausted our scholarship funding before we could award to the entire applicant pool,” she said. “This year, Chancellor Cheng allowed us to fund more scholarships to deserving students and the results were astounding.”

Some students think the university is helping out students as much as possible, despite their personal financial situations.

Austin Winters, a junior from Carmi studying speech communications, said he received a grant for transferring to the university and thinks SIU can offer the same or more opportunities for other students.

“Yeah, definitely, considering so many students can afford to go here,” he said. “There has to be some sort of vast amount of financial aid going around, even if it’s a little amount of money.”

Evan Marshall, a freshman from St. Louis studying education, said he receives financial aid from subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Marshall said the university has provided him with enough aid to ease his mind about having debt after college.

“I am worried because of the profession I’m going into, but one of the reasons I chose to go to SIU … was because it was one of the most cost-efficient schools on my list,” he said.

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