Student Loan Reform

By Amber Sandlin

Sun Star Reporter

Although it was wrapped up in a much more publicized healthcare bill, congress passed student loan reform last April. The Obama administration called it “one of the most significant investments in higher education since the G.I. bill.” Yet it may be difficult for the average UAF student to notice.  For UAF financial aid, the changes are much more noticable.

“Every month there is a different rule or change to financial aid” said Jackie Alleyne-McCants the UAF Assistant Director of student loans.

The Health Care Education and Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 established direct lending for student loans. In the past the Federal Stafford Loan process was a partnership between the federal government and both public and private sector lenders. With direct lending, borrowers have a single point of contact on all information pertaining to their student loans. UAF experimented with direct lending in 1999 but cut it in 2001 because, according to Alleyne-McCants, the selection of loan products didn’t justify the staff time. UAF wanted the students to have a big selection, Alleyne-McCants said.

Some UAF students have expressed concern or unfamiliarity with the change in how loans work.

“It’s frustrating with classes and housing [due] around the corner and not know whats going to happen with your future.” said Erik Dickson, a senior. Dickson said that he noticed no difference in accepting student loans compared to years past. “Megan Aspelund; a junior, said “there was no noticeable difference” than last year compared to this year.

“We’ve had some glitches but each university uses different systems” said Alleyne-McCants.

There are some changes that students will notice.  Beginning this fall, all students must sign a new Master Promissory Note and complete an online loan counseling course before receiving their funds.  There will also be more money available for loans and grants, with the Pell Grant increasing to $5,550 for the 2010-2011 school year. Alleyne-McCants predicts that student grants such as the Pell can only to go up from here.

Still, the real task is behind the scenes. The UAF Financial Aid office employs a total of 10 staff members. That’s a estimated 1,044 students for every staff member.

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