FAQ - Questions Posed to the Director
Following are some important questions posed to Mark Warner, the University of Iowa Assistant Provost of Enrollment Services and Director of Financial Aid.
- Would you describe the philosophy behind Iowa's financial aid policies?
- How does the UI package their aid?
- How do I apply for scholarships and why aren't there more merit-based scholarships based on academic achievement alone
- Do most undergraduate students borrow educational loans to attend the University of Iowa? Are loans considered financial aid?
- Do you offer "discounts" when a family has more than one child attending the UI or for students who live in a neighboring state?
The primary mission of the University of Iowa Office of Student Financial Aid (UI OSFA) is to
- provide access
- help enroll a well-prepared, high achieving and culturally diverse student body
- support continued enrollment
- facilitate timely graduation rates
Federal and state aid programs tend to target students with financial need, as do many of our own funds. We also allocate significant University funds to help support merit scholarship programs that help enroll top scholars and a culturally diverse student population. And, of course, need and merit often overlap. Many of our top scholars also qualify for need-based aid.
The UI OSFA always first awards scholarships and grants to qualifying students, then loans. Work-Study is awarded if a student requests it and meets the qualifications. Financial aid packages may have a combination of scholarships, grants, work-study, and educational loans.
I recommend that all students complete the FAFSA annually as this process is not only necessary to apply for federal, state, and University need-based financial aid, but also some private scholarships and grants require the UI OSFA to determine financial need when awarding the funds. Also, the non-need-based Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan requires the filing of the FAFSA to validate that the family does not demonstrate financial need. Students are encouraged to file the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 and preferably by March 1 for the upcoming academic year. The FAFSA can be filed using reasonable estimated tax return information so that it may be completed as soon as possible. The UI OSFA awards the majority of its need-based financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier your application is complete with all required documents, the better your chances are of receiving priority consideration for the most desirable awards.
We include the non-direct costs in the overall cost of attendance and most aid packages will include loans to meet the entire cost. However, a student may not incur expenses for the entire amounts listed for personal and transportation costs; therefore, a family should try to minimize borrowing by reviewing the direct costs.
You can access information about scholarships by visiting our scholarship website. Our scholarship website may refer you to other University of Iowa and non-University related sites. Many students utilize counselors, teachers, and administrators at their high schools or may contact other local community agencies for information about scholarships. The UI has a long history of developing scholarship and grant programs that help provide access to those who otherwise may not be able to attend. Although we allocate a significant amount of University dollars to merit scholarships, 80% of our need-based and merit scholarships are awarded to students who complete the FAFSA annually and demonstrate financial need.
Almost 40% of the graduating senior class of 2010 left the University debt free. Of those who borrowed, the average need-based loan debt was $11,414 and the total combined need-based and non-need-based debt was $25,515. The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Education show that the loan default rate for University of Iowa students is less than 2%. Students who have borrowed have been able to successfully repay their educational debt. Students and parents are able to borrow directly from the federal government through the Federal Direct Loan Programs. As a last resort, and to address special circumstances, parents and students also have options to borrow through private loan sources.
No, the UI OSFA does not negotiate financial aid awards. The student is considered for and awarded the most optimal aid package from the beginning based on award criteria and fund availability. We award financial aid based on specific federal and state regulations and institutional policies. We may adjust an award if there is a change in the family's financial circumstances, but any new award will be based on established guidelines, not the result of a negotiation.
The UI does not offer discounts. When a family has more than one child attending college, the federal need analysis takes that into account and divides the calculated expected parental contribution equally among those siblings. For certain high-achieving nonresident students, the UI has the National Scholars Award (NSA) Program that helps offset some of the differential cost between nonresident and resident tuition. The Iowa Heritage Scholarship Program is available for children and grandchildren of UI alums from out of state. Information about both of these programs can be accessed on the Admissions website.
If parents of undergraduate students are able but not willing to help, the best we can do is direct the student toward non-need-based aid, which consists mainly of unsubsidized federal loans, private loans, and student employment. If parents are willing, but for a legitimate reason their immediate ability is impaired, we will work very closely with the family to help identify viable options and solutions. Sometimes parents are willing and able, but the student chooses not to accept the parent help. These students will still have their aid eligibility determined on the basis of the parents' income and asset information on the FAFSA. It is important to note that simply not claiming the student as a dependent for tax purposes does not qualify the student to apply for financial aid as a self-supporting student.
Students and parents can appeal their financial aid package if "special circumstances" exist, and these appeals can take place throughout the year. See our special circumstances web page for details on the circumstances we are able to consider. Sometimes these appeals can result in more financial aid for the student. The family and student should always feel free to contact our office to discuss their individual family circumstances.
According to various media reports, credit card usage among college students has been increasing. Several years ago, through a collaborative effort by numerous offices, the UI formed Student Credit and Money Management Services to provide free and confidential financial aid counseling to all UI students.