Iowa universities distribute less financial aid as enrollments decline


Public universities in Iowa, as well as the state and federal government, provided less financial aid to students last year, as campus enrollment plummeted.

But with COVID-19 further reducing enrollment while increasing the need for help with tuition fees, universities have stressed the importance of financial assistance to lawmakers who are now deciding how much to appropriate campuses and universities. families weighing where to send their students – and their money.

“In 2019-2020, the total amount of financial aid given to students (undergraduate and graduate students) decreased for the second year in a row, from $ 1.09 billion last year to $ 1.09 billion last year. $ 06 billion, “according to a new report from the Iowa Board of Regents.

Although the decline was primarily related to enrollment losses, the percentage of financial need met for University of Iowa undergraduates from 2017-18 to 2019-2020 fell from 67% for residents and 57% for non-residents to 56% and 50%, respectively. .

The percentage of financial need met at Iowa State University has remained stable over this period, while the University of Northern Iowa reported a slight increase in the amount of need met.

Universities have stressed the importance of financial aid in expanding opportunities for an increasingly diverse pool of high school students in Iowa; fight against an imminent drop in registrations potentially accelerated by the pandemic; and increase their competitive advantage over peer institutions attempting to recruit the same students.

In the Regents’ appropriation proposal to lawmakers this session, campuses pledged to spend at least part of the requested increase of $ 18 million to support student financial aid – a pledge universities have already made. .

Types of assistance

Financial aid doesn’t just come in the form of scholarships and grants from a higher education institution. It also includes federal and private loans and on-campus employment opportunities.

Including all aid at the three regent universities, federal financial aid increased from $ 553.7 million in 2017-2018 to $ 517.8 million in 2019-2020. Institutional assistance increased from 410.8 to 392.1 million dollars; and state aid has been cut by almost half, from $ 4.5 million to $ 2.5 million.

Only aid from private organizations, foundations, businesses and other external sources increased during this period, from $ 133.3 million to $ 149 million, according to the regent’s report.

Undergraduates receive 70% of all aid available on regent campuses – $ 738.1 million out of $ 1.06 billion in 2019-20. Of the aid that went to this group, almost 48% came from the federal government – largely loans – while 35% came from regent universities, which are mostly scholarships, grants and employment opportunities.

“While total university aid to undergraduates fell in 2019-2020 from a peak in 2017-2018, the amount per student remains stable,” according to the board report. “In fact, the average amount of aid per student is slightly higher in 2019-20 than in 2017-18. “

Net price

These conflicting numbers are due to declining enrollments, which the pandemic has made worse despite efforts to provide some semblance of college experience on campus.

Hoping to maintain a pot of tuition income, the UI and ISU had increased rates until COVID-19 interrupted this academic year.

Thanks to financial aid, however, the net price for attending universities in 2019-2020 – calculated by taking the average amount of grants and scholarships per student and subtracting it from the price of a university sticker – n ‘ has not increased for everyone.

“The net price is usually a more accurate approximation of how much a student pays for the university, compared to the sticker price,” according to the regent’s report. “On average, Regent University students with the greatest financial need receive the most financial aid. “

The net price to attend a regent university in 2019-2020 was $ 20,365 for a student from a family earning more than $ 110,000, up slightly from $ 19,633 the year before.

But the net price has come down for some students from families with lower adjusted gross incomes – such as those earning $ 30,000 or less, who in 2019-2020 paid an average of $ 11,278, just less than $ 11,505. the previous year.

“Regent universities continue to have one of the lowest net prices among four-year colleges and universities in Iowa,” according to the report, showing that only Maharishi University at Fairfield with a lower net price among four-year colleges and universities in Iowa.

Looking at student debt, all three universities reported a declining percentage of Iowa students graduating with debt.

But the percentage of non-Iowa residents who borrow has increased at ISU and UNI, jumping about three percentage points at ISU and more than eight points at UNI from 2016-17 to 2019-2020.

And, among resident graduates, more than half of every campus is in debt.

“Thirty-nine percent of Iowa State University, 42.6 percent of the University of Iowa, and 30.1 percent of the University of Northern Iowa graduated without any debt.” , indicates the report.

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The Pentacrest on the University of Iowa campus, including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top left) right) and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette / archive photo)

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