Politicians and the press have had plenty to say about the existence and severity of the student loan "credit crunch." Now the people who actually know something are weighing in.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators on Tuesday released a survey of its members, offering the first systematic look at what student aid officers on campuses are actually seeing and doing about the real or perceived lack of student loans for their students.
The survey also examines how colleges have responded to changes in federal and state laws and rules governing how institutions share information with students about their lending options, finding that most colleges have retained their lists of "preferred lenders," but that those that have dropped them have done so because of the changes in the legal and regulatory picture.
Among the findings of the survey, to which a mix of 1,078 officials at two- and four-year, public and private institutions responded:
- Forty-four percent of respondents described themselves as "very concerned," and 46 percent said they were "somewhat concerned," by the student loan crunch.
- Fifty-six percent of respondents said that at least one federal loan provider had notified them that it would not provide loans to their students even though they were staying in the loan program over all. More than 60 percent of respondents said they believed Congress should enact legislation to ensure that lenders do not discriminate in the sorts of students they lend to.
- Just 20 percent of campus aid officials said they they have a backup plan in case there are disruptions in the availability of federal student loans, and another 26 percent said they would have a plan in place by the time the 2008-9 academic year begins. Most aid administrators said they would seek to participate in the direct loan program in case of such disruption.
- More than half of respondents said it will be more difficult for their students to obtain private loans this year, but 50 percent believe that the private loan market has stabilized and that it will not become any more difficult than it already is for students to get alternative loans.
- More than half of respondents said they believed that legislation Congress passed this summer to ensure the availability of federal loans will ease the problem but that longer-term solutions are necessary.
- Almost three-quarters of aid officers aid they continued to offer some sort of preferred lender list to students and parents.