Support That Lasts a Lifetime
Published on 19 May 2020
The cost of attending college has increased steadily over the last decade, and student debt continues to rise. At St. Louis College of Pharmacy, the Office of Financial Aid provides support to help students make sensible financial choices as they pursue their goals.
The financial aid team doesn’t shy away from the fact that, while less than the national average for pharmacy students, the average pharmacy student at the College will graduate with a sizeable amount of debt. Instead, they strive to provide customized, transparent support through counseling sessions and financial literacy education.
STUDENT LOAN DEBT FOR PHARMACY STUDENTS IN 2018
$130,000: Average student loan debt for students who attended St. Louis College of Pharmacy for at least four years at the professional level
$166,000: National average student loan debt for students in a four-year pharmacy program (public or private)
$200,000: National average student loan debt for students in a four-year private pharmacy program
“We encourage students to meet with us so we can understand their academic goals and financial situation,” said Dan Stiffler, director of financial aid. “We personalize each financial aid package for individual students and families. We want them to understand the full cost of their degree and how to accomplish their overall goals. It’s about education and transparency.”
Students begin receiving financial literacy training after their first meeting with financial aid.
“Many students have never been involved in their personal finances, so tailoring communication to them, rather than just their parents, is important,” said Molly Hurley, financial aid coordinator. “We want them to understand how to manage their financial aid so when they graduate, they are prepared to be successful.”
As pharmacy students approach graduation, the financial aid team prepares personalized loan repayment books for them. These books outline students’ federal loan debt and provide information on services available to manage their accounts, build a budget and begin managing their money.
“Financial literacy makes our students better prepared to thrive,” Stiffler said. “Our graduates are positioned for a good financial life, but students need to learn how to live that life.”
By helping students gain financial literacy, the Office of Financial Aid hopes to help them access the return on investment for which the College has been recognized.
In a study performed by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the College ranked among the top five schools in the nation for return on investment in a bachelor’s degree 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40 years after enrollment, ranking No. 1 in the nation at the 15- and 20-year marks.
“Our goal is to help prospective and current students understand the value of the investment they are making in their education,” said Beth Keserauskis, vice president for marketing and enrollment services. “We work to counsel them through financial aid options to help them make the best financial choices for their situation and maximize that value.”
The College’s continued efforts to help students create personalized action plans has resulted in consistently low cohort default rates. A cohort default rate measures how many students who left a college or university, with or without a degree, defaulted on their student loans during the first three years of repayment. The College’s default rate of less than 1% sits well below the national average of 10.1% for all colleges and universities.
“The levels of debt carried by students pursuing pharmacy and other professional degrees can be substantial,” Stiffler explained. “If a student is certain that a career in health care is their goal, we can provide the resources to make sure they achieve that goal, understand their choices and get the best value possible. Our average default rate and loan debt are much lower than the national average, and we want to see them stay that way.”
The College is taking active steps to combat the rising costs of educating its students. As the cost of delivering an education increases nationwide, colleges and universities are raising tuition by 3-5% each year. Through careful planning, the College has been able to hold tuition increases at 1-3%.
The College is also providing more support than ever. In the past five years, institutional aid awarded to students has risen by 15%, to more than $6.3 million in institutional aid and $350,000 in endowed scholarships. This aid includes the creation of competitive scholars programs that allow students to earn scholarship awards through their participation in on-campus music, community service, research and leadership activities.
“Meeting with students and their families is the best part of our job,” Stiffler said. “It’s so rewarding to impact a student’s life by helping them find a realistic and attainable way to pay for their education when they never thought it would be possible.”
FINANCIAL AID QUICK FACTS
96% students receiving aid
$15,425 average first-year scholarship and grant awards
$6.37 million in institutional financial aid awarded during the 2018-19 academic year
$350,000 in endowed scholarships
This story originally appeared in the spring 2020 issue of Script.