FSU explains high debt

Factors such as poor economy, over-borrowing to blame

Reductions in funding and switching majors are some of the factors in high debt accumulation for Ferris students.

In the Oct. 5 issue of the Torch, the article “Debt dealings” featured two Ferris graduates discussing the amount of debt they had. The article also mentioned that 2009 Ferris graduates had $34,767 in debt per student, the highest among all four-year public universities in Michigan.

Director of Financial Aid Sara Dew said the number reflects Bachelor-level graduates who were not transfer students and borrowed any type of educational loan, which totaled 812 students.

Dew said although the average for those students was $34,767, the most frequent loan debt for that group of students was $26,000. Students who did not borrow within that population had an average loan debt of $28,920. The numbers only reflect Bachelor-level graduates.

“The nature of the way an average is calculated makes it sensitive to extreme values – because all 812 students’ data is included is in the average calculation, very high debt amounts will skew the average amount,” Dew said.

Since reduction in federal financial aid is taking place and the state’s financial aid programs are being cut, it is difficult for the university to replace the funds.

In addition, outside factors such as high unemployment and the poor economy are to blame. Dew said the financial aid office has seen a significant increase in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms filed and an eight percent increase in Pell Grant eligible students.

“This is reflective of families with low income,” Dew said.

Over the last several years, particularly after the credit crisis experienced nation-wide, there have been more students seeking ways to pay for school without, or at least minimizing, their loan debt.

Dew said the financial aid office is partnering with educational counselors and academic advisors to ensure students are getting the advising necessary to make sure they are staying on track and getting their degrees in a timely manner.

“Our office has put together a Financial Aid Literacy Program that we are using to help inform students about budgeting, saving, and other monetary matters, including minimizing loan debt,” Dew said.

“If students are struggling to get the grades they need or are withdrawing from classes and not earning them, financial aid is not being maximized,” Dew said.

According to Dew, the more students change their majors, the more expensive their education can become, which could be one reason why loan debt starts to rise.

“If students stay on track academically, then this can help minimize the amount of loans students have to take to finish their degrees,” Dew said.

Dew said students should consider working as a way to help with their educational costs, whether it is working while in school or working a lot of hours during the summer and saving that money for next year’s educational expenses. Dew advises students to take a serious look at their budget and determine if there are ways to get by with less money.

“We strongly encourage students to only borrow what they need and not to use it to maintain a certain lifestyle,” Dew said.

Also, students need to file the FAFSA as soon as possible after Jan. 1. Dew said some of the funding that is available to students is limited and in order to make sure students who are eligible receive the most financial aid, it is important to file early and as accurately
as possible.