Last week we hosted a visit by Governor Walker, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), and a number of local legislators focusing on the topic of college affordability and student debt. While recent developments on this front by State Government were highlighted and I had the opportunity to share some of the ways we are making a college education even more affordable, the new announcement by the Governor was the creation of a position at DFI that will specialize in student debt.
A few of our initiatives that I highlighted included the outstanding work of the FVTC Foundation which awarded almost $1 million in scholarships to over 1,100 students last year alone, as well as their support of 334 students with emergency grants last year. I also mentioned the FVTC Promise Scholarship Program, launched earlier this month by the Foundation (see my recent blog post: Promising Futures – Not a Dry Eye in the House!). This program will make a technical college education a reality for hundreds of low-income high school graduates each year, starting with the class of 2017. I also mentioned the good work being done by our Financial Wellness Center – through a partnership between the College, the Foundation, and FISC/Goodwill – which has been operational since 2011 and supports about 500 students annually with financial education and counseling. Lastly, I shared that over 4,000 high school students had the opportunity to earn about 10,000 FVTC credits through dual enrollment last year translating to over $1 million in potential savings to these students and families. So much is being done here to make an already cost effective higher education option even more affordable and accessible.
As we were pulling together some key facts for this State visit, a couple of things really stood out to me from the College’s own student data related to affordability and student debt that I think you will also find interesting:
- The average total cost (tuition, fees, books) of an Associate in Applied Science Degree at FVTC is $13,185.
- Fewer than 25% of our degree students take out federal student loans to finance their education.
- Of those who do have federal student loans, the average debt they leave with is $11,020.
- Two-thirds of our students pursue their degrees on a part-time basis; most are working while going to school and take on their education at a pace that they can afford.
As I think about the whole topic of college affordability and student debt, there are important roles for many to play.
State and federal governments certainly play a role with legislation that affects Federal Financial Aid and student grant programs.
College foundations can make a significant impact with scholarship support and emergency funding.
Colleges, themselves, can make a huge difference through things like program design, cost-conscious textbook selection, dual enrollment, effective program articulation agreements that keep students from repeating or losing credits, and financial support services.
Employers can certainly help through tuition reimbursement programs, sponsoring students or employees through degree programs or registered apprenticeships, and increasing the skills of incumbent workers through customized training programs.
And finally, parents and students (as consumers) need to make smart, cost-effective choices when it comes to post-secondary education.
Large amounts of student debt are amassed only when people make decisions to do so – and it is very sad when those choices don’t align very well with the ROI the graduate (or worse yet, non-graduate) will achieve through subsequent employment.
I’m curious – who do you think needs to play the greatest role in ensuring college affordability and reasonable student debt loads?