Author: Lois J. Gray
The University of Iowa was recognized by BestColleges.com as one of the top 25 public universities nationally for having one of the lowest student loan default rates.
The UI was ranked as the 12th best public university with the lowest student default rate out of more than 700 public colleges reviewed across the country.
“The University of Iowa rose to the top in 2015 for this metric of affordability,” says Madeline Cruz, BestColleges.com associate director of communications. “Student loans are in the news, and they are the new normal for most students seeking a college degree.”
BestColleges.com staff note that too many schools graduate students who cannot afford to repay their student loans.
“The University of Iowa is a welcome exception,” Cruz says. “The UI has demonstrated that its students are able to find employment after graduation sufficient enough to cover the cost of their education.”
Mark Warner, assistant provost and director of UI Office of Student Financial Aid, says the ranking reinforces the commitment the UI has made to keeping a quality higher education affordable.
“Students do receive an outstanding education at an affordable cost at the UI, and they are extremely successful in becoming gainfully employed after graduation with salaries that allow them to meet their student debt obligations,” Warner says.
In the 2012-13 academic year, 83 percent of undergraduate students received some form of financial assistance, including loans, scholarships, grants, or work-study compensation.
Warner adds that the UI has a history of annually providing significant amounts of scholarships and grants for its undergraduate students, a major factor in helping to minimize need-based borrowing.
During the 2014-15 academic year, the UI allocated $57.7 million of its General Fund money to support need-based and merit scholarships for undergraduate students, up from $20.5 million during 2005-06 academic year. These scholarships and grants are awarded to qualifying students before consideration is given for work-study awards and student loans.
This commitment results in 41 percent of baccalaureate graduates entering the professional world with to student loan debt.
Financial literacy is important
During the past year, the UI Office of Student Financial Aid has added two full time financial literacy specialists to its staff, who focus on providing one-on-one and group debt counseling for its undergraduate students.
“Beyond debt counseling, these staff work with students on how to develop a frugal student budget they can live on while enrolled at the UI and how to effectively manage their limited financial resources,” Warner says. “We attempt to educate our students about how to borrow only amounts that are needed rather than borrowing based on choice. Taking on manageable debt may be necessary for many students but a sound investment considering their increased earning potential with a four-year degree.”
The UI resident undergraduate student who started as a freshman in the 2012-13 academic year will be paying the same amount of tuition for their 2015-16 senior year as they did in their freshman year.
“This is attributed to action by the Iowa Board of Regents and the Iowa Legislature that has frozen resident undergraduate tuition the past three years,” Warner says. “Maintaining low tuition will always help minimize the need to borrow.”
The commitment to students is reflected in the UI’s retention rate: more than 86 percent of first-time incoming freshman continued to their second year.
Personalized career advising a priority
Coupled with financial aid and financial education availability, the UI Pomerantz Career Center works with students through personalized career advising to help students as they choose a major that will allow them to work toward a career that will not only be fulfilling but will meet their financial needs after college.
In addition to advising, the center provides ample opportunity for students to connect with internships and full-time employment through career fairs, networking events, interviews on campus, and online resources.
For the 2013-14 academic year, more than 94 percent of graduates at the undergraduate level were placed—meaning they had employment or had gone on to further their education, within seven months after graduation.
To view the rankings, visit the BestColleges.Com website.
The methodology used for this ranking included obtaining information from institutional websites, collegiate rankings, and the Institute of Education Sciences. To finalize the rankings, BestColleges.com factored in not only student loan default rates, but also graduation, retention, and acceptance rates.