More students needing financial aid for education

Monday, December 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The number of students needing financial aid to complete their college education is rising along with the cost of tuition. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education says $487.4million in financial aid was distributed to 106,225 college students for the 1997-98 school year. About one-third of students at Oklahoma colleges needed financial aid in the form of loans, scholarships and grants at the start of the decade.

The amount sought in 1997-98 is more than double what it was at the beginning of the decade when $241.3 million was awarded to 78,631 students. The Oklahoma count isn't out of the ordinary. The U.S. Census Bureau says six out of every 10 full-time college students in the country has some type of financial help. Matt Hamilton, financial aid director at the University of Oklahoma, said more students are borrowing money to attend college and more are receiving grants and scholarships than ever before. Hamilton said that federal student loan programs were expanded in 1992. He said that was a big source of the increase.

The federal government made it easier for students, especially from middle-class families, to borrow money for their education as they try to keep up with the rising college costs, he said. He said students who probably wouldn't have borrowed money 10 years ago now have a better chance of obtaining low-interest loans. "There has been increased borrowing at the middle class-level," he said. He said working one's way through college isn't as practical as it once was.

Tuition at Oklahoma's universities rose 33 percent this decade and increased by 27 percent at junior colleges. Hamilton noted that more donors are giving money for student scholarships as competition increases for the best students. State regents have implemented five scholarship programs this decade that have helped 6,475 students. "I also believe there is an increased commitment (by schools)to help needy students," Hamilton said.