Excelsior College Students’ Median Debt is Substantially Less Than The National Average
By Alicia Jacobs, Excelsior Life Staff—
Finances can be a roadblock to many things in life, and education is no exception. With student debt eclipsing one trillion dollars (and one in five households holding a balance on their student loans), issues surrounding higher education affordability and access are once again front and center in the national discussion.
On the bright side, nontraditional students may have an advantage says Christina Roarke, Excelsior College’s assistant director of financial aid.
“On average, online education costs are less than traditional brick and mortar education,” says Roarke. “Online education allows students to continue working while pursuing their degree, reduce travel expenses, and cut the cost of campus living.”
Students at Excelsior College are a prime example. As a comparison, median debt at Excelsior College is $9,600 per student, well below the national average of $26,000 per student borrower. One of the main factors for Excelsior’s lower debt burden is a result of its liberal transfer policy and alternative pathways to degree completion, including credit by examination.
Reducing debt begins with college choice. Roarke suggests those looking to attend or return to school review the websites of prospective colleges and universities to identify potential scholarships, grant programs, and partnership discounts. Some employers also offer employee reimbursement or tuition discounts. Students should check whether either of these options fit their particular situation.
The next step is completing key federal and state applications for aid. Students can determine their eligibility for federal grant funding and direct student loans by filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Timing is critical, with student aid applications considered on a first-come, first-served basis (with some types of aid). New York residents who have lived in the state for at least, one year are encouraged to file an application for state aid through NYSTAP.
“It is important for students to review their expected (estimated) student loan needs for the entire duration of their education so they can estimate how much they will be paying back when they graduate,” Roarke says. “The Department of Education has some great resources for students to help them plan long term. Students can go to www.studentaid.ed.gov for answers to questions that range from: How do I prepare for college? To: How do I manage my loans?”
Doing your homework on financing is fundamental to the college search process. Many financial literacy tools are available to assist students with borrowing responsibly. For example, Excelsior College offers extensive resources on financial aid options, responsible borrowing, and financing education.
Another popular tool when conducting financial comparisons is the Net Price Calculator.
Finally, Roarke reminds students that the Financial Aid Office should always be viewed as a resource and never a roadblock.
“We are here to help students through the entire process,” says Roarke. “We are acutely aware of how financial aid impacts students ability to persist and graduate. Because of that, we work hard to ensure that students understand their options as well the process and provide them with as much information as possible so that they can make informed decisions about their education.”