Few apply for Georgia school loans

Few apply for Georgia school loans

August 3rd, 2011 by Perla Trevizo in News

Students make their way between classes at Dalton State College in this file photo.


* Designed to be funding of last resort for college students.

* The interest rate is 1 percent and the repayment term is 10 years after graduation.

* Students may borrow up to $10,000 per year and up to a maximum of $40,000 over their college lifetime.

* Loans may be used towards any part of the student's cost of attendance.

* Students will be randomly selected from the pool of applicants.

* Students must be attending an eligible college or university in Georgia.

* The loan will be forgiven for students who go on to teach math, science, technology or engineering in Georgia public schools. Each year spent teaching forgives one year.

* For more information about the Student Access Loan Program, visit www.GAcollege411.org.

Source: Georgia Student Finance Commission


10: Number of students from Georgia Northwestern Technical College who applied for the loan.

12: Number of students at Dalton State College who applied for the loan.

5,181: Number of students statewide who applied for the loan.

$3,500: Estimated average loan amount to be given.

5,700: Estimated number of loans to be given.

$20 million: Amount of money appropriated to the loan program.

Source: Georgia Student Finance Commission

Out of 5,181 Georgia students who applied for the newly available student loan, only 12 are from Dalton State College and 10 from Georgia Northwestern Technical College.

In order to help fill gaps in college funding this year after changes were made to the HOPE scholarship program, the state appropriated $20 million to the Georgia Student Finance Commission to award the loans to 5,700 state students.

State officials opened the application period for the Student Access Loan from June 20 through July 15 and initially anticipated 15,000 students to request a loan, which have a 1 percent interest rate, but only received a little more than 5,000 applications.

"We had estimated a higher number of applications, but that wasn't based on any sort of experience with the program," said Tracy Ireland, director of the Georgia Student Finance Commission's post-secondary student and school services.

"We are quite pleased with the ones we've received. Those 5,181 students requested almost $40 million in funding," he added.

The commission contacted postsecondary institutions, high schools and used Twitter and Facebook to promote the new program, he said.

Carol Jones, financial aid director at Dalton State, said she also anticipated a bigger response.

In fiscal year 2010, about 6,500, or 80 percent of the students at Dalton State, received financial aid, she said, and 3,166 of those had the HOPE scholarship or grant.

"I don't know that a lot of students know about [the new loan]," she said. "Mostly people are concentrating on the HOPE changes."

This year lawmakers changed the HOPE scholarship fund -- paid through the state lottery -- because it faced a $243 million budget shortfall and $521 million cash reserves were projected to run out by 2013. Among the changes, most students will get less than 90 percent of their tuition covered and they can no longer pay for books or fees with the money.

Steve Bradshaw, associate vice president for student affairs at Georgia Northwestern, said this is the first year students at the technical college have needed loans.

"In the past, our students did not need loans because HOPE covered all of their tuition and fees, with the exception of a $35 technology fee," he said.

Close to 90 percent of 3,897 students enrolled in the technical college receive HOPE grant and scholarship funding and about 70 percent receive Pell Grant funding, according to school officials.

Under the changes to HOPE, only 81 percent of George Northwestern's tuition rates for 2011 are covered, he said. This year, tuition increased about $375 for a student taking 15 semester hours. The major change for the technical college was going from a quarter to a semester system, he said.

At Dalton State, tuition increased 3 percent and the institutional fee went from $100 to $200. A full-time, in-state student at Dalton State taking 15 credit hours or more will pay $1,811 per semester in tuition and fees.

The Georgia General Assembly passed a bill in 2008 that included three new student loan programs, including the Student Access Loan, but it didn't have sufficient funding to give out loans -- there was a $500,000 minimum required by the law -- until this year, Ireland said.

The average loan amount Ireland expects to award this year through the access loan is $3,500, although there's a $10,000 limit and the average requested from the students was $7,500, he said.

In order to qualify for the loan, students must show they've exhausted all other funding options to meet their cost of school attendance.

"The loan amount is calculated by taking student's cost of attendance and subtracting from it the expected family contribution and their expected financial aid award from the college," said Ireland. "This loan program is designed purely to fill the gap or of last resort."

State colleges and universities have until the end of August to review the first group of applications and loans will be awarded until the $20 million is spent. If there are not enough applications to use the $20 million, Ireland said they might open up another round of applications.