New financial aid options but fewer college graduates - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

New financial aid options but fewer college graduates

By Len Kiese - bio | email

July 1, 2008 

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - As the cost of higher education gets higher, financial aid changes that went into effect Tuesday could help ease the burden.

One major change will significantly reduce interest rates on unconsolidated student loans. If the loans were issued before July 1st 2006, rates will drop from 6.62-percent to 4.21-percent for the in-school and grace period.

Students who already graduated and are still in the six-month grace period can lock in a rate of 3.61-percent. The pell grant will also increase by $421.

"It makes a huge difference. Every penny does.  That $421 can make a huge difference as the cost of education has increased across the board," said Albany State University Director of Financial Aid Thomas Harris, Jr.

Under new rules, students can also borrow more for Stafford loans. There are also new incentives for parents who take out PLUS loans. Payments can now be deferred until after the student graduates.

Students who have trouble paying for college may be more likely to drop out. A new report says Georgia has too many college dropouts. The Southern Regional Education Board says Georgia needs to work harder to raise college graduation rates.

Even though Georgia high school graduates enter college at a higher rate than the national average, less than 50-percent of them graduate from four-year schools within six years. That's below the national average of 55-percent.

Albany State University has seen a 17-percent increase in graduates in two years but administrators say they want to do even better. "College graduation rates are never good enough. Every student that comes to college in the state of Georgia or any other state should have a reasonable expectation that they will graduate, so every school has to do more," said ASU Assistant VP For Academic Affairs Dr. Ruth Salter.

The study also found that the proportion of children from low-income households has increased in Georgia. The good news is that those children have shown an increase in academic achievement.

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