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Business Briefs

Short news articles based on research surveys and peers’ business experiences that can benefit institutions

Merit-Based Aid Adds Up

14%

Share of undergraduates who received merit-based grant aid in 2007–08.

$4,700

The average merit-based grant award amount during that same time period.

+17.5%

The inflation-adjusted change in average merit awards from 1995–96 to 2007–08.

6 of 10

Estimated ratio of traditional-age merit aid recipients from high-middle–income to high-income families.

32%

Proportion of all students with an SAT combined score of 1300–1600 who received merit aid.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, "Merit Aid for Undergraduates: Trends From 1995–96 to 2007–08," available online.

RESEARCH
New NCES Report Shows Rapid Rise in Student Loans

The number of students borrowing federal education loans has been rising for the past two decades, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Much of the rise in borrowing has come from the Stafford Loan program, which is authorized under the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act. The HEOA authorizes two different types of Stafford Loans: "subsidized" (under which borrowers' accrued interest is paid by the federal government) and "unsubsidized" (under which borrowers must pay the interest).

The Stafford program is the largest source of loan-based aid for higher education students. In academic year 2009–10, approximately 8.6 million undergraduates borrowed $56.1 billion in Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized loans, according to the College Board. Subsidized loans ($27.2 billion) accounted for about 47 percent of the total.

The NCES report, "Borrowing at the Maximum: Undergraduate Stafford Loan Borrowers in 2007–08," is based on data collected through NCES's triannual National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). These data show that the share of undergraduates who received at least one Stafford Loan (subsidized and unsubsidized loans were combined for this analysis) rose from 27 percent in 1989–90 to 46 percent in 2007-08. In addition, the average cumulative Stafford Loan received for all years of undergraduate study was $10,300 in 2007-08, compared with $7,200 (in 2007 dollars) in 1989–90.

Increases for All

Stafford Loan program borrowing jumped at all institutional types.

  • At community colleges, for example, the percentage of total students with at least one loan doubled from 11.7 percent in 1989–90 to 23.8 percent in 2007–08, while the average total amount borrowed by these students grew nearly 38 percent (adjusted for inflation).
  • At four-year public colleges and universities, the share of undergraduates with loans increased from about 28 percent to almost 53 percent, and the amount owed grew 48 percent.
  • And at four-year private nonprofit institutions, the share of students with loans rose from about 39 percent to nearly 62 percent, and the average loan rose 30 percent to $11,400—the highest among all the sectors.
  • Despite all this growth, it was the borrowers at proprietary schools who were the heaviest users of Stafford Loans. The share of these undergraduates with one or more loans jumped from about 71 percent to nearly 92 percent, and their cumulative debt rose 59 percent to $10,500.

Borrowing to the Max

While the share of students with Stafford Loans increased steadily, the percentage who borrowed at the federally authorized maximum annual loan limit (which varies by undergraduate class level) declined at several points throughout the study period. From 1992-93 to 1995-96, the share of students who received the maximum Stafford Loan dropped from 51 percent of all such borrowers to 41 percent. In a similar, slightly longer, time span (1992–93 to 2006–07), the maximum loan amount for traditional-age second-year undergraduates was raised from $2,625 to $3,500, and for third-year and higher-level students the maximum increased to $5,500 from $4,000.

While the federally authorized ceiling was raised, borrowers who receive subsidized loans also cannot borrow more than their estimated financial need (determined when they apply for financial aid). One possible explanation offered by the report authors for the decline in maximum borrowing is that the students' financial need did not increase as much as the change in the loan limit.

Another possibility is that some borrowers were not aware of the higher loan limit until later during their college careers. Both of these factors appear to have lessened in impact by 1999–2000, as the share of students who borrowed at the highest federal loan limit for their class level in that year rose to 48 percent, and returned to 51 percent in 2003–04. When the loan limits for first- and second-year students were raised in 2007–08, the share of all students getting the maximum loan dropped again to 43 percent. 

Take It to the Program Limit

Loan limits also vary by Stafford Loan program. In 2007-08, about 44 percent of the Stafford subsidized recipients borrowed at that program's federal loan limit. However, when the data were recalculated using the lower amount of either the Stafford Loan federal maximum or the students' financial need, 66 percent of these borrowers received loans up to their individual eligible amount. That is, about two thirds of Stafford subsidized loan recipients received as much as they could within the limits of their eligibility for need-based loan aid, NCES speculates.

Similar calculations were performed for the combined eligibility for subsidized and unsubsidized loans (under unsubsidized loans, borrowers may receive the lesser amount of the program's combined loan maximum or their total estimated cost of attendance at their higher education institution). These calculations show that while 45 percent of those who got loans reached the federal loan ceiling, 59 percent borrowed as much in combined subsidized and unsubsidized loans as they were eligible to receive.

RESOURCE LINK: Click here to access the full report, "Borrowing to the Maximum."

NACUBO CONTACT Kenneth Redd, director, research and policy analysis, 202.861.2527, 

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SPOTLIGHT: RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES
Recycled Computers Lower Costs, Avoid Landfills

Over the course of several years, Temple University, Philadelphia, has built a thriving computer recycling service that could well serve as a model for other institutions. Created in 2003, the Computer Recycling Center (CRC) was intended as a mechanism for the proper disposal of older university computers. It has since evolved into a process that creates new life for older electronics. The center's dynamic assembly-line operation maximizes equipment usage through (1) careful evaluation of each salvaged computer and computer part, and (2 equipment refurbishment and reassignment whenever possible. In 2009, 78 percent of computers turned in to the CRC were returned to active use.

Program benefits include revenue generated through equipment resale, far fewer computers headed to landfills, and heightened technology and environmental awareness among students.

An Innovative IT Solution

The CRC came together as the result of several factors. For one, departments had been accumulating old equipment locally to avoid disposal costs. Also, increased social and regulatory pressure was driving Temple to create a formal process for the proper disposal of surplus electronic equipment. In addition, Tim O'Rourke became the new chief information officer, bringing financial expertise to department operations.

After reviewing the issues and options, the IT team made the decision to charge university departments an advanced recovery fee that ranges from $10 for a new printer to $50 for a new central processing unit and monitor. By paying disposal fees at the time of purchase, departments readily surrender obsolete and surplus equipment. Also, by centralizing the collection point, proper disposal or reuse is assured.

The CRC's dedicated source of funding allows for two full-time employees and a cadre of student workers. CRC staff receive requests to recycle equipment, which they then pick up from departments. Jonathan Latko, assistant director, along with Fady Isleem, senior tech support specialist, and a staff of student workers then catalog, evaluate, salvage, or, when possible, refurbish the equipment. The program includes measures to ensure the secure removal of data from hard drives. Equipment no longer useful is salvaged, prepared, and sold to recoup costs.

Waste Not, Want Not

In 2005, I was charged with a CRC oversight role, and we began to increase the emphasis on marketing our services, providing more usable recycled products, and investing in upgrades to extend the life of the recycled equipment. The Computer Recycling Center recovered these costs from the sale of the refurbished machines. 

The center makes the refurbished inventory available (first to university departments and then to students, faculty, and staff) at minimal cost through an online store. The remaining equipment is donated to charitable community organizations. Although not the latest and greatest models, for some staff members the recycled computers turn out to be their very first ones. Computer services staff can also take advantage of reusable parts when, for example, they need to replace a CD drive or find a particular cable.

Since its inception, the center has refurbished and reissued more than 8,700 computers, 5,500 monitors, 1,100 printers, and 100 scanners. Up to 300 computer systems are donated to nonprofit groups per year, with more than 1,400 computers donated to date. Under this program, the CRC's work has prevented at least 1.2 million pounds of equipment from going straight to landfills.

In September 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency recognized the CRC by awarding it one of its prestigious Environmental Achievement Awards. Click here to learn more about the Computer Recycling Center. 

SUBMITTED BY Bill McMaster, director, computer business services, Temple University, Philadelphia

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HUMAN RESOURCESS
A Tale of Two Roles

Why would a chief business officer also want to teach? For me, taking on the professorial role, in addition to that of senior vice chancellor for finance and business affairs at Troy University, Troy, Alabama, seemed the culmination of three elements of learning. Career experience, advanced study, and a passion to help others learn could come together in a way that enhanced—for both me and the university—more than 25 years of business office expertise.

I've found that the two professional roles create a lot of synergy. And they each come with their own rewards.

A Logical Next Step

At Troy University, my role as CBO is in great part defined by logistical and budgeting challenges of a complex operating structure. Dealing with four Alabama campuses, 60 U.S. teaching sites, teaching locations in nine countries, and online learning courses for 15,000 students—along with some entrepreneurial duties—might seem like enough of a job.

But, my scholarly background seems a good fit for doing something more at Troy, a leader in virtual education delivery. Having taken online courses at Boston University and focused my doctoral research at the University of Alabama on distance learning, I wrote my dissertation on examining the psychosocial constructs of satisfaction in an online education environment. Teaching such courses would be a good test of my research conclusions.

Motivated more by learning than compensation, I quickly found that teaching was not about easy money—and discovered the true meaning of 24/7. Students serving in the U.S. Navy and stationed in Japan don't really care what time it is in the United States when they need a question answered or additional instruction concerning a problem. Scheduling exams for students in 13 time zones poses additional challenges.

Similar and Divergent Duties

When you consider the core qualities essential for being a competent CBO or an effective teacher, the differences aren't so pronounced. Both positions require knowledge of the subject and a certain degree of expertise in the particular field. Both require the ability to convey knowledge to other people and to listen actively. Passion and the ability to motivate others to learn are also key characteristics. In these ways, the transition to teaching wasn't hard.

So what sets one apart from the other? As an adjunct instructor of an under-graduate managerial finance class and a graduate course in student affairs, I've learned that the difference is mainly bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Online classes, for example, are taken by traditional students with a fair amount of education but little work experience, and by nontraditional students who have limited education but extensive work experience. So, while one group needs to learn the theory first and then the practical application of subject matter, the other needs to learn the educational principles and theory behind the application of related job responsibilities they already practice. The overarching commonality is the desire of both groups to learn.

Lessons Taught and Learned

Having operated on both sides of traditional institutional governance (academic and administration), I've certainly become more attuned to faculty needs and have become more receptive—and less skeptical—of ideas and changes to practices, policies, and procedures.

One of the immediate values was the ability to prove my dissertation research hypotheses. From a sample of more than 11,000 online students, I had concluded that the top three relationships between psychosocial satisfaction scales in an online student learning environment are: autonomous learning, active learning, and instructor support. My practical teaching experience has validated those relationships.

True, a CBO may feel a sense of satisfaction from an unqualified audit opinion, the completion of capital asset inventory using radio frequency identification technology, or the grand opening of a new academic building or dining facility. However, I challenge business officers to experience and compare such accomplishments with the satisfaction of teaching a student and knowing that the effort will influence a young scholar pursuing an education that can change his or her life.

SUBMITTED BY Jim Bookout, senior vice chancellor for finance and business affairs, Troy University, Troy, Alabama

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