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Postsecondary Round-up: Debt, Aid and Innovation


December 9, 2013


Postsecondary Round-up: Debt, Aid and Innovation

A new report and a new toolkit are contributing to the higher education dialogue on issues of student debt, credential attainment and high-quality, publicly accessible information.

According to a report from the Institute for College Access and Success, seven in 10 four-year college seniors who graduated in 2012 had student loan debt, with an average amount of $29,400. The proportion of seniors who graduated with loans was 71 percent, up from 68 percent in 2008, and their debt load had increased by an average of 6 percent per year.

This publication did not include data on students at two-year colleges, as noted by Matt Reed, author of the Inside Higher Ed Confessions of a Community College Dean blog. With lower tuition costs, community college students typically have zero or minimal debt. This financially benefits both students aiming to attain a sub-baccalaureate credential, and those who transfer to a four-year college.

Another issue with financial aid is the application process, which can be particularly daunting for first-generation college students. To help, the Department of Education has launched an online Financial Aid Toolkit that collates financial aid resources into a searchable database. The toolkit includes Financial Aid Night materials, brochures, presentations, videos and sample Facebook posts and tweets, as well as training opportunities and resources for self-instruction.

In addition, the Department is asking higher education leaders and stakeholders to submit ideas on experimental sites to test innovation in competency-based education, dual enrollment and credit for prior learning. The Department has also been listening to stakeholders for ideas on how to best develop a college rating system, including a listening session at last week's ACTE CareerTech VISION 2013.  

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