Where Is Your Discount Rate?

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John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group, Inc.

We are arriving at that part of the cycle when expenditure of institutional aid trends have developed. You should, at this point in the cycle, have awarded at least half the number of admission applicants you intend to enroll and you should have awarded approximately 40% of your currently enrolled students. Current expenditure averages are likely to give an indication of where you will end up at the end of the cycle.

Hopefully, you are tracking average institutional aid expenditures for both new and returning students. The average for your new students to date is likely to be running high. Generally, students with more generous scholarship offers tend to apply for financial aid earlier and the ?best and brightest? keep early averages high. Recall that competition is steep for these students and they are the least likely to enroll. Do not panic if the current average is running higher than the target. Compare the current average to historical data at this time to determine if you have reason to be concerned.

The current average for returning students is not likely to change significantly over the remaining months of the cycle. Your current average should be a likely predictor for the final average level of expenditure for institutional aid.

Outside forces are likely to have influenced your institutional aid averages for the coming year.

Changes in the Federal Stafford Loan program should serve to help you stabilize or even reduce historic levels of expenditure. Maximum borrowing levels for the Federal Stafford Loan have increased significantly. Borrowing maximums for freshmen have increased from $2,625 to $3,500. Sophomores can now borrow up to $4,500 this year compared to only $3,500 last year. These changes should enable most schools to keep institutional aid averages constant or create possibilities for reductions.

The maximum Federal Pell Grant has increased for the coming year. The maximum award will increase from $4,050 to $4,310 this year. Increases in this grant can be used to offset a portion of your tuition increase or to meet a higher percentage of demonstrated need.

The recent introduction of the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) will serve a similar purpose. Some students can receive $750 a year under this program.

Another recent program is The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant). Students can be eligible for up to $4,000 be meeting the requirements of this program.

Many states are also scheduled to increase the amount of their scholarships and grants. (Keep in mind that other states are keeping their scholarship and grant offers level or constant while some are even reducing the amount of their scholarships and grants).

Regardless of your current expenditure average, it is not too late to make adjustments to control or even reduce your current averages. Have a conversation with your Director of Financial Aid to discuss corrective action. Changes in gaps, caps and target percentages for meeting need can still influence your final institutional aid numbers. Recent changes should have made things a little easier for most schools this year. If your current averages indicate corrective action, however, it is not too late to make changes now.

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