Federal Government Reports More Students Receiving Financial Aid

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released new data showing that more than seventy percent of undergraduates received some type of student aid (including student loans) during the 2011-12 academic year. Overall, nearly 8 percent more students received grants and 3 percent more students received loans in 2011-12 than in 2007-08. The report, a preview of the 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) to be released later this fall, is the most comprehensive source of data about how students and their families pay for college. The survey is currently conducted every four years.

Among the study’s other key findings:

  • Since the beginning of the economic downturn, the average amount of financial aid per recipient increased from $9,000 in 2007-08 to $10,800 in the 2011-12 academic year.
  • Fifty-nine percent of undergraduate students received grants averaging $6,200 and 42 percent took out an average of $7,100 in loans, up from 51 percent, with an average grant of $5,209, and 39 percent, with an average loan of $7,594 respectively in 2007-08.
  • Six percent of undergraduates earned aid through work-study jobs averaging $2,300 in wages; 4 percent received an average of $7,500 in veterans’ benefits, and 5% had parents who took out at average of $12,100 in Parent PLUS Loans.
  • Among graduate students, 70 percent received some type of financial aid averaging $22,300, including student loans.
  • Twelve percent of graduate and professional school students received an average of $14,700 in assistantships and forty-five percent borrowed an average of $21,400 in student loans.
  • As state support for financial aid decreased and in-state public tuition increased, students increasingly relied more on the federal government for financial aid to attend college by more than 10% from 2007-08 to 2011-12. Financial support from colleges and universities remained stable from 2007-08 to 2011-12.

NCES also issued a revision to its 2008 NPSAS data files to reflect 2007-08 enrollment counts, in lieu of originally published 2006-07 figures. This reweighting to 2007-08 enrollment data presents a much lower utilization of federal student aid by private for-profit colleges than originally reported.

This latest data is timely as Congress considers the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965.