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Study: Iowa Students Rely More on Loans to Fund Tuition


Iowa’s college students are relying more on student loans and less on grants to cover tuition, according to a new report by the Iowa College Student Aid Commission.

In the 2005-06 school year, loans to Iowa students represented 53 percent of all aid, compared with 40 percent of aid in 1990, the report stated.

Meanwhile, work-study aid comprised about 20 percent of assistance in 1990, compared with about 9 percent in 2005-06. Scholarship money has remained about the same in the last 15 years, equaling less than 40 percent of student aid.

“Debt seems to be a major part of our culture,” said Keith Greiner, research director with the commission.

“We’ve gone on a percentage basis from being a country that emphasizes scholarships and grants, to a country that emphasizes debt as a way of financing education for individuals and really our entire system.”

In 2005-06, 209,000 students attended Iowa’s 54 colleges and universities and were awarded $1.83 billion in student aid, according to the report. Students who graduated with debt that year left with about $24,990 to pay back, according to the commission.

The report was distributed Thursday at the Iowa Higher Education Research Conference sponsored by the Iowa College Student Aid Commission.

Robert Shireman, the president of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit organization interested in making higher education more affordable, advised colleges to ask students questions before allowing them to take out private loans. He said private loans have higher interest rates and are treated more harshly under bankruptcy laws than federal loans.

Students need to review their budgets and examine their parents’ role in financing their education before signing up for a private loan, he said.

Also, “at some point, the amount of private debt might suggest that’s not the school someone should be at,” he said.

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