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About Two-Thirds of Undergraduates Receive Financial Aid, New Federal Report Reveals

April 23, 2009

In academic year 2007-08, about 66 percent of all undergraduate students received some form of financial assistance to pay postsecondary expenses, and the average amount of aid received was $9,100, according to the recently released National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). NPSAS has been conducted every three or  four years by the National Center for Education Statistics, a unit within the U.S. Department of Education. The most recent NPSAS survey is based on a sample of about 114,000 undergraduate students and 14,000 graduate and first professional students, randomly selected from more than 1,600 postsecondary institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico. The sample was weighted so that it represents the more than 21 million undergraduate and graduates/professional students who were enrolled at a higher education institution in the U.S. and Puerto Rico at some time during the 2007-08 academic year.

Receipt of financial aid and the average amount of assistance received has grown substantially. In 1995-96, just 50 percent of undergraduates received aid, and the average amount of aid was $4,926.  While average total aid awards jumped 85 percent in current (non-inflation-adjusted) value, the listed price for attending four-year colleges and universities grew at even higher rates. According to the College Board’s "Trends in College Prices" report, tuition and fee prices at four-year private colleges jumped 94 percent between 1995-96 and 2007-08, while tuition prices at four-year public institutions rose 120 percent.
In addition, average loans awards grew slightly higher than grants. From 1995-96 to 2007-08, the share of all undergraduates who received student loans rose from 26 percent to 38 percent, and the average amount borrowed for one year of study among those who received loans grew 82 percent in current dollars--from $4,074 to $7,400. In the same time span, average grant aid increased about 80 percent, from $2,716 to $4,900, and the proportion of undergraduates who received grants from any source increased from 39 percent to 52 percent.

There were vast differences in the awarding of grants, especially institutionally funded grant assistance, during 2007-08. That year, 52 percent of undergraduates at four-year, private non-profit (independent) institutions received an average of $9,500 in institutionally provided grants. In contrast, just 22 percent of undergraduates at four-year public colleges and universities received institutional grant aid, and the average amount awarded to these recipients was just $3,700.

More information about the 2008 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study is available from the NCES Web site.

NACUBO staff resource is Ken Redd