September 28 2006
"We are starting our processes earlier and are trying to give students more time. It does take a little while to get the federal processes done and make sure we are getting the right aid to the right students at the right time," Ratliff said. "For us, the right time is the beginning of school when students need it most."
Processing for the fall distribution of student aid begins in February with a push to get students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in time to be received by Indiana's March 10 deadline. Approximately 70 percent of Indiana State students receive some form of financial assistance.
"We make about 10,000 phone calls during February to try to encourage students to apply online," Ratliff said, noting that detailed line-by-line instructions for the FAFSA are available on the office's Web site at www.indstate.edu/finaid.
The $20.3 million figure in fall 2006 disbursements includes federal and state grants, some student work program funds, and some scholarships. It also includes student loans, but Ratliff and his staff caution students against borrowing more money than is needed.
'We try to speak with students about their needs as opposed to wants. We try to focus on what a student's actual financial needs are, what the long term effects of having debt can be, and how having interest accrue over a long period of time can grow more than what one expects," Ratliff said. "We are trying to help them make good life choices and good borrowing choices."
Today's college seniors have experienced first hand the effects of higher interest rates. Federally subsidized loans with a variable interest rate of 5 percent or less that were common just a few years ago have given way to fixed rates of nearly 7 percent, Ratliff noted.
Despite Indiana's March 10 deadline for state assistance, the handful of students who have not yet applied for financial aid this year may be surprised to learn that it is still not too late.
"There are a couple of federal programs where funds are exhausted but many are not, including the federal Pell Grant, as well as student loans, which would be a last option to help them meet their educational costs," Ratliff said.
"We can still help them pay for school and focus their attention on their class work and their life experiences here instead of on their finances," he said.
Contact: Thomas Ratliff, director, student financial aid, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2215 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3743 or email@example.com
For the third year in a row, Indiana State University's Office of Student Financial Aid distributed a record amount of financial assistance in conjunction with the start of the fall semester. The $20.3 million distributed for 2006 represents a more than 10 percent increase over 2005.