TCU’s graduation gift might keep on giving

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    This year, 2,391 of 3,217 TCU students of any classification that were determined to have financial need were awarded “need-based self-help aid,” or loans, according to TCU’s 2014-2015 Common Data Set done by the TCU Office of Institutional Research.

    On average, full-time first-year students were awarded $3,460 in need-based loans.

    Though the amount of loans needed might increase in the remaining years of undergraduate school, students would accumulate $13,840 in loans in four years if they’re awarded the average loan amount for 2015 first-year students.

    Michael Scott, the director of scholarships and financial aid, said if money is left over from the undergraduate financial aid budget, TCU may be able to reduce graduating seniors’ student loans.

    It is not a guarantee yet, but it was done last year.

    “I don’t know how many or how much. We won’t know that for another couple of weeks,” Scott said. “What we did last year was looked at students who had loans and then looked at the ones who had the most financial need and who had taken out the most loan volume. Then we came up with the formula, took the money and tried to equitably spread it across that group to lower their loans.”

    Scott said they will know if and how they will reduce loans by the beginning of May.

    TCU has an $85 million undergraduate financial aid budget that goes toward different scholarships and grants. Scott said financial aid has started trying to set money aside throughout the year to reduce loans at the end of the year, but whether they’ll need it to balance accounts or some other reason is uncertain until the last minute.

    “I’ve never heard of anyone doing it,” Scott said. “I’m not saying there aren’t other schools who have put more money into their financial aid budget with the goal of reducing loans. Lots of schools are trying to keep the loan volume down. Our approach to it was doing it at the end instead of upfront, because our fear was if we had given them a little more money upfront they still would’ve taken out the loans because they’re still eligible for them. But by doing it at the end once everything was over with, [the grant] just [reduced] that loan and we actually sent the loan money back for them.”

    Scott said financial aid works with reducing loans every day because students get scholarships or grants, decide they no longer want their loan and have them sent back.

    Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, 1,965 students received Bachelor’s degrees.

    According to TCU’s 2013-2014 Common Data Set, last year 2,572 students of any classification were awarded loans averaging $5,709 each.

    Scott said financial aid was able to reduce about 360 graduating seniors’ loans and grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 last year.

    “We did stuff like that to try to get it to the people that really need the help the most. Everybody wants it obviously, but there’s not enough to give everybody,” Scott said.

    He said they looked at the whole group and considered individual students’ financial need using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or the FAFSA), then looked at how much money they borrowed.

    “If we came across someone who we had given lots and lots of grant money to or scholarship, maybe someone was on a full-tuition scholarship or something, we skipped them because we’ve already given them the most amount of grant money we give,” Scott said.

    He said financial aid prioritized more for the students who took out lots of loans because they didn’t get grants and scholarships.

    Last year the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid primarily reduced Stafford loans and College Access loans. Scott said they did not reduce any parent loans, such as the PLUS loan.

    Senior finance major DeAndre Lewis said that a loan reduction “would be a blessing.”

    Students who received the grant last year were appreciative.

    “You wouldn’t believe some of the emails I got back. It was just so much fun,” Scott said. “It was the most fun I’ve had doing financial aid, because usually I deal with the people that are mad about something. I’m getting these great emails about ‘I’m sitting here crying I can’t believe my school would do this.’ One of them wrote me saying, ‘My father doesn’t believe me. He said there’s no way you would do this.’ Things like that. They were so excited. It seems like those students left more happy with the education they got.”