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More students borrowing money to pay for college

WEATHERFORD, Okla. (AP) More Oklahoma students are having to borrow money to pay for college, according to a new report.

The study presented Thursday to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education found that 30 percent of students attending public colleges in the state in 2004 took out loans to pay for college, an increase from 20 percent in 1994.

More than half of the 235,000 students attending public colleges and universities in Oklahoma rely on some sort of financial aid, the regents, who met at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, were told.

The report also found that student loans are outpacing grants and scholarships, which haven't kept up with student growth. At the same time, colleges have raised tuition because of lagging state funding.

``More students are going to college but have fewer resources and have to take out loans,'' said Chancellor Paul Risser. ``Even though Oklahoma is affordable, as tuition goes up, it does become a financial challenge.''

Student loans exceeded $390 million last year, up 37 percent over the previous two years. Grants and scholarships were about $319 million, up 22.5 percent.

The lack of state funding has hurt the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) program.

State appropriations last year were $17.3 million, helping 20,854 students with an average award of $842.

An April 27 hearing in Oklahoma City for the public to comment on possible tuition and fee increases.

Regents also awarded three Oklahoma colleges with economic development grants.

Redlands Community College received $170,000; Cameron University got $100,000 and Oklahoma City Community College received $100,000.
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