UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — About 76 percent of all Penn State students at all levels receive some form of financial aid, according to a report presented today (Nov. 22) to the University's Board of Trustees by Anne Rohrbach, executive director for Undergraduate Admissions, and Anna Griswold, assistant vice president for Undergraduate Education and executive director of student aid.
Rohrbach said that Penn State's total enrollment — including all undergraduate, graduate, online, law, and medical students — rose again slightly this year to stand at an all-time high of more than 98,000 students.
Undergraduate enrollment across all campuses totaled 70,108, with 57 percent studying at University Park. Applications for admission for first-year resident baccalaureate students declined by 9 percent; however, more applications were received from undergraduate international, Penn State World Campus and transfer students. The number of students enrolled exclusively in online courses through World Campus increased by almost 11 percent over last year.
Although fewer offers of admission were extended to first-year students, commensurate with the reduced applicant pool, an increase in the yield was realized on those offers. "The University had a total of 16,089 students say 'yes' to Penn State — nearly 8,300 at University Park and about 7,800 at the Commonwealth campuses, an overall increase of 750 students compared to the entering class last year," said Rohrbach.
As more four-year degree programs have become available at the Commonwealth campuses, the number of students moving to University Park to complete their degrees has fallen to below 3,600 from a high of almost 4,000 in 2009-10, according to Rohrbach.
"Abington, Altoona, Berks, Erie and Harrisburg in particular have seen considerable growth in their upper-division enrollments, while the remaining 14 campuses have maintained a steady enrollment in their baccalaureate programs," she said. "Collectively, the campuses account for almost 9,000 upper-division students who take advantage of degree programs delivered locally."
The University welcomed almost 1,300 new international undergraduates in fall 2013, including nearly 800 freshmen at University Park and 500 at the campuses. International students in residence at all levels now exceed 7,000 or just over 9 percent of the total resident enrollment.
"In addition to increasing geographic diversity, our undergraduate student body is growing more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity," said Rohrbach. "Ten years ago, both University Park and the Commonwealth campuses had comparable minority representation in the student body, about 12 to 13 percent. Minority enrollments have grown steadily over the past decade, particularly at the campuses, where minority students constitute 23 percent of the fall enrollment. University Park minority enrollment is at 18 percent."
Griswold addressed the state of student aid at the University, noting that 28 percent of undergraduates receive federal Pell grants, and students at all levels continue to rely heavily on support from the student aid programs to help pay the cost of their Penn State education.
Funding from all sources — federal, state, University and private/outside funding — last year exceeded $1.14 billion, assisting more than 73,000 undergraduate, graduate, medical and law students, which represented 76 percent of total enrollment at the University in 2012-13.
Of that number, 63,400 undergraduates received the majority of the funds in the form of loans, grants, scholarships and work-study funding, amounting to $949.9 million, with federal student aid comprising 64 percent of that total.
Last year, the average student loan debt at graduation for baccalaureate degree students who borrowed was about $35,000, compared to a national average student loan debt of about $26,600.
However, Griswold pointed out that Penn State graduates' default rate on student loan repayments is 6.4 percent, compared to the national average of 10 percent, and also is more than 2 percentage points lower than the average among all colleges and universities in Pennsylvania.
"Our loan debt for graduating seniors continues to run higher than the national average student loan debt but studies show consistently a high return on this investment for students," said Griswold. "The economy and job market have presented challenges for college graduates as they begin repayment of their student loans, but the percentage of Penn State students that run into problems repaying their loans remains well below the national average default rate."
Griswold noted a trend in the number of students borrowing education loans. Last year, approximately 74 percent, or 11,087 of undergraduate baccalaureate students, graduated with some student loan debt, an increase over the previous year when 66 percent of graduating students had loan debt.
"This pattern of increased borrowing tracks the past four to five years when many families' incomes and assets were affected by the significant downturn of the economy," she said.
Noting the critical role that scholarships and grants play for Penn State students, Griswold reported that last year undergraduates received $91 million in grants and scholarships through the University, with 51 percent from centrally funded grants and scholarships and 49 percent from endowed and annual scholarships. This institutional support constitutes 9.6 percent of the total student aid provided to undergraduates.
The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program, which matches donor endowments with University funding pledged in perpetuity, reached its initial goal of $100 million, established in 2002, as of June 30. The goal has been increased to $120 million and the program now includes just over 1,000 donor endowments.
"There were 4,444 Trustee Scholarship recipients last year out of nearly 22,000 eligible students," Griswold said. "The average GPA of the recipients was 3.38. They were awarded $9.4 million by Penn State’s colleges, campuses, and administrative units, for an average of over $2,200 per recipient."
Griswold added that Penn State’s grant and scholarship program continues to grow and the success of the Trustee Matching Scholarship Program is helping many of the University's lowest income students.
Graduate/professional students received $189.5 million, with nearly half that amount through academic departments in the form of graduate assistantships and fellowships.