Financial Aid Statistics: Investing in Education

In a year in which everyone waits with resignation for the latest economic numbers (unemployment, foreclosures, lay-offs) and hundreds of thousands of former workers return to college, it seems fitting to ask what U.S. financial aid statistics look like.

The National Center for Education Statistics has this information, for a big picture view. For the 2007-2008 school year:

  • 66% of all undergraduates received some type of financial aid in 2007-2008
  • For those who received any aid, the total average amount received was $9,100
  • 52% received grants averaging $4,900 (grants typically do not have to be repaid)
  • 16% received an average of $2,500 in state-funded grants
  • 20% received an average of $5,000 in grants from their school
  • 7% received aid through work-study jobs averaging $2,400 in wages
  • 2% received an average of $5,400 in veterans’ benefits
  • 38% took out an average of $7,100 in student loans

The U.S. Department of Education provides around $100 billion a year or so in government student aid for college, according to the Student Aid on the Web site. For the 2007-2008 school year, federal financial aid statistics included:

  • 47% of all undergraduates received federal student aid
  • For those who received federal aid, the average amount was $6,600
  • Federal Pell Grants were awarded to 27% of all undergraduates at an average of $2,600
  • 34% of all undergraduates took out federal Stafford loans averaging a total of $5,000
  • 30% took out Subsidized Stafford loans averaging $3,400
  • 22% took out Unsubsidized Stafford loans averaging $3,200
  • 4% had parents who took out an average of $10,800 in Parent PLUS loans (Parent PLUS loans are for parents of dependent students.)

In 2007-2008, the federal government awarded over $14 billion in Pell Grants to more than 5.4 million undergraduate students. A July 2009 NCES report profiled Pell Grant recipients who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1999-2000. Among the report’s findings were these financial aid statistics:

  • 36% of students had received at least one Pell Grant during their undergraduate education
  • Pell Grants recipients were typically very low-income students at a greater socioeconomic disadvantage than non-recipients
  • 31% were 23-24 years old (23% were 22 or younger; 27% were 25-29; and almost 19% were 30 or older)
  • 34% of Pell Grant recipients delayed their enrollment in college after high school
  • 60% were considered financially independent for financial aid purposes
  • 24% had dependents of their own
  • 11% were single parents
  • 58% left college or career school for 4 or more months and later returned to complete a degree at either the same school or a different one
  • A larger proportion of Pell Grant recipients than non-recipients had characteristics that put them at risk for dropping out
  • When all the many factors differentiating Pell Grant recipients from non-recipients were filtered out, Pell Grant recipients actually graduated in less time than non-recipients did

For more details, you can find reader-friendly charts in Scott Jaschik’s Inside Higher Ed article, “Who Are Pell Grant Recipients?”

In this challenging year of 2009, Pell Grants will be sorely needed. The 2009 Stimulus Bill added enough funding to boost the maximum grant to $5,350 and provide grants for about 800,000 more needy students. (Those are encouraging financial aid statistics.)

Just as important, the Obama administration asked the Department of Labor to punt its “senseless” policy of stopping the unemployment benefits of laid-off workers awarded a Pell Grant. It’s time to go back to school.

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