Section: News

Class of 2017 in less debt than average Ohio student

On average, Kenyon students graduate with $8,214 less in student debt than those at other Ohio colleges, according to Director of Financial Aid Craig Slaughter. A study conducted by WalletHub, a personal finance website, found Ohio’s average student debt is $30,239 per student while the average student debt for the members of Kenyon’s Class of 2017 who took out loans is $22,025. WalletHub’s study, which compared student debt to each state’s student work and postgraduate employment opportunities, gave Ohio the worst score in the country.

Thirty seven percent of Kenyon students in the class of 2017 borrowed money to fund their education, according to Slaughter. Forty four percent of students pay the full price of attendance, which is currently $65,840. The remaining students pay less than full price through need-based grants and merit aid. On Jan. 18, 2017, the New York Times reported that 19.8 percent of Kenyon students come from the top one percent of the income scale while only 12.2 percent come from the bottom sixty percent.

With a smaller endowment than its peer institutions, Kenyon depends on the revenue that comes from tuition.

“While it is a nonprofit, the College is a business,” Slaughter said. “We rely on all sorts of revenue streams to run the College business but the most significant revenue stream is the tuition that families pay.”

For example, 8 percent of the 2017-18 budget for the College – over $115 million – comes from mandatory fees. Those fees are a significant part of the $34.9 million budgeted for financial aid; 86.7 percent of the financial aid budget comes from tuition dollars, according to Vice President for Finance Todd Burson.

The revenue Kenyon receives from those who pay full tuition allows student borrowers to borrow less, according to Slaughter. Not only is a Kenyon student’s average debt burden lower than the Ohio average, but Kenyon also has a lower average for students with the highest need rank, broadly defined as those eligible for Pell Grants. Pell Grants are government subsidies typically awarded to students whose families fall within the bottom forty percent of the income scale. Student eligibility is determined by a formula that uses information from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.

Those who received Pell Grants in the class of 217 had an average debt of $19,931. Slaughter said this is because Kenyon focuses on decreasing the debt of the students on need-based financial aid rather than setting a lower average price for everyone.

A senior Pell Grant recipient who wished to remain anonymous to protect their privacy told the Collegian that although he would be accruing roughly $31,500 in debt, Kenyon met his full federally-defined need. He said that although he had paid the same price each year, he had gradually taken out more loans and received less money in grants both from Kenyon and from Pell Grants.

The amount of aid students receive changes every year because the Office of Financial Aid does a need analysis, meaning each year they redetermine how much money to give a student in aid. Slaughter pointed out that, because tuition continues to rise each year, and the federal government’s loan-borrowing limits increase each year, students can continue to expect a modest increase in what they are expected to pay and borrow throughout their four years on campus.

This increase could be in what is called the self-help expectation, comprised of loans and work-study.

Work-study requires parents to pay the amount a student is expected to earn up front and the student pays back the parents through the money they earn working. It does not guarantee that students will get enough hours working an on-campus job to earn back the quantity in their aid package.

This was not an option for the student who spoke to the Collegian, because his parents simply could not afford to pay the work-study money up front.

“Kenyon gave me the best [financial aid] package possible,” he said, “by the numbers and by the sentimental show of solidarity with a single-parent household. Nobody else would pay.”

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