The number of students whose families can't contribute financially to their college education is skyrocketing, according to a new study from the Iowa state Board of Regents.
There has been a 66 percent increase in the number of families who expect to pay zero dollars for their student's education, according to the student financial aid study, which will be presented at a regents board meeting Thursday in Ames.
There were 1,997 students from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa with zero expected family contribution in fall 2010, up 793 students from 2009, which is about 8.4 percent of students, according to the study.
The surge will further stress financial aid resources for students at the university, state and federal levels, said Mark Warner, UI financial aid director.
"It means there are more families who are eligible for more money," Warner said. "It's going to put more stress on limited dollars, whether federal, state or university dollars."
The report was released as part of the docket for the regents meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Ames.
Other items on the agenda include campus housing and dining rate increases at UI, ISU and UNI; information about a new $42 million campus dorm at UI; options to replace the 590 Hawkeye Court and Hawkeye Drive apartments; plans for a $14.6 million family medicine center west of the main UI Hospitals and Clinics complex; and a $20 million project to expand the UIHC ambulatory surgery center and main operating room suite.
At UI, the number of students whose families can't contribute financially jumped 52 percent, or from 396 in 2009 to 603 students in 2010. But Warner said with the continuation of the federal Pell Grant program and an increase of Iowa regents' tuition set aside for financial aid, there still should be enough money to allow students to continue enrolling in school.
According to the financial aid study, these students have on average $3,759 in estimated need that is not met by financial aid. Warner said students not accepting all of the money that is available to them reflects that they may have other resources to cover costs, such as a side job or help from extended family, and thus can remain enrolled.
Over the past several years, Iowa has had one of the highest, if not the highest, participation rates of students from low-income families in country, according to the study. In 2009, Iowa had the seventh highest college participation rate at 36.6 percent, which was above the national average of 27.4 percent, according to the study.
While the increase in families who can't contribute may seem like a sure reflection of the economic turmoil, the economy likely is only one part of the equation, Warner said. Middle-income families, not low-income families, took the biggest hit during the financial slide, Warner said.
Several variables also likely also are at the root of the surging numbers of students whose families can't contribute, such as changing benchmarks for what financial need is and an increase in students filling out the FAFSA, a free application for federal student aid, Warner said.
"Not to suggest the economy hasn't had a negative impact economically on low-income families, but not to the extent of middle-income families," he said.