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Financial aid expert weighs in on economic challenges

January 30, 2009

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    Glendi Gaddis, director of Student Financial Services

A majority of all students attending Lewis & Clark undergraduate and graduate programs receive financial aid to cover their education costs. This includes nearly 70 percent of all students in the College of Arts and Sciences, more than 90 percent of students at the School of Law and 41 percent of students attending the Graduate School of Education and Counseling.

For more than 10 years Glendi Gaddis has been directing the financial aid programs that the majority of students utilize to cover their educational expenses. With more than 17 years of experience in the field and her role as an advisor on the Oregon Opportunity Grant Advisory Committee and leader in the Oregon Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, she is frequently asked about financial aid issues. In today’s economy, her role is more important than ever as she helps students and parents navigate the financial waters regarding loans, grants, scholarships and savings plans. Here, she shares some of the most pressing and common questions she has been receiving recently.

Q.  Private schools are more expensive, why should I consider an education at Lewis & Clark?

An education shouldn’t be viewed merely in the context of a consumer product but as an investment. Whether you are working toward a bachelor’s degree or considering a professional degree or certification, you must think about the long-term return on investment your education can provide. As demand for higher education grows and state budgets shrink, many public colleges and universities will be forced to do more with fewer funds which ultimately impacts the quality of an education.

I encourage students to assess not only the quality of the programs and faculty offered at Lewis & Clark but also the values that the community has identified as central to providing an educational experience that will best prepare them for life after college.

Q. How can I pay for my education?

For most students considering attending or currently enrolled in Lewis & Clark, costs are typically covered in a combination of two or three ways:
1.    Savings and assets students and/or their families have built over time.
2.    Current income from salaries as well as grants and scholarships that cover part or all educational costs immediately.
3.    Future earnings through the educational loan borrowing that students and/or parents assume to cover present costs and pay back after the student is no longer enrolled.

Each of these is being affected by the current economic situation and requiring people to re-evaluate how all three work together for them as they manage the costs of an education. Our office works hard to help students and their families solve financial problems and identify options that might allow them to offset the under performance or loss of funds in one area with resources from another area.

Q. How has the economy affected financial aid needs for students at Lewis & Clark?

For many of our students and their parents relying on savings and assets to help cover costs, they are in a position to make adjustments and plan accordingly.  We are hearing families voice a level of anxiety about what they may experience in the future.  We certainly understand the concern but we do not have the ability to provide assistance on the basis of what may happen.  While not many, we are beginning to hear from some students and/or parents about job loss now and so we are working with them on the best strategies to cover costs.

Q.  Is financial aid still available?

I think there is a lot of misinformation about the current state of financial aid—especially regarding the availability of educational loans. For many students and families, using loans to help offset current earnings may be necessary and they are available.

A number of lenders large and small have either folded with the decline in the market or have become far more restrained in the types of higher education institutions they lend to.  Community colleges and proprietary schools (career colleges) have been most affected by this financial trend. Fortunately, Lewis & Clark has maintained viable, healthy relationships with its lenders and has not been affected.

You can learn about the variety of loan programs available to our students and their families. The College continues to offer a significant amount of institutional grants and scholarships to assist students, as well. Also, Oregon has the second highest minimum wage rate in the nation at $8.40 an hour offers good supplemental funds to students who work part time.

Q. What do you think will happen in the near future to help me cover my costs?

Certainly the economic challenges we currently face as a country will not be quickly resolved and education has been included as an area where stimulus support is needed and can prove beneficial.  The potential of increased support to the Federal Pell Grant program as well as increased funding limits under the Federal unsubsidized Stafford Loan have both been included in recent legislation that is under consideration.  In addition to direct support for aid programs, there is also discussion about extending greater tax credits for students and families who pay out of pocket to cover educational expenses.

Lewis & Clark is not immune to the challenges raised by the current economy.  We are committed to offering the quality educational experience our students and families have come to expect which requires that we be deliberate and thoughtful about the use of our resources.

Q. Are there any reputable online resources or books you could recommend to learn more about financial aid?

I often recommend www.finaid.org, an online resource that was established in 1994 as a public service and is possibly the most comprehensive resource on financial aid.  It contains information about various financial aid programs as well as information about the process of applying for aid and determining eligibility.  I find FinAid to be not only informative but objective in the presentation of financial aid information.   Another online resource is www.studentaid.ed.gov which is maintained by the U.S. Department of Education.

For more information:

Jodi Heintz
Public Relations Director
503-768-7961
jodih@lclark.edu

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