PHEAA’s mission to support college students in Pennsylvania

The COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating economic impact required Pennsylvania students and families to rethink their plans for a college degree.

As President of the Pennsylvania Institute for Higher Education (PHEAA), I can assure readers that recent research on affordability at universities continues to reach the same conclusions. Degrees are worth the investment, as in most states here in Pennsylvania.

On average, Bachelor’s degree Pennsylvania earns 51.7% more than associate degree Pennsylvania ($ 89,278 vs. $ 58,847). According to a May 2020 report published by the Thomas Fordham Institute, 78% more than those with a high school diploma.

A recent PHEAA study reveals how PA state grant programs play an important role in reducing student loan debt.

This is especially important in Pennsylvania. Sixty-five percent of college graduates have student loan debt, with an average debt of over $ 39,000. This is the second highest amount in the country.

According to other surveys, the income gap between Pennsylvania college graduates and those with only high school diplomas was even greater than the national average.

Trade and technical schools also offer lifelong benefits, especially when preparing for a demanding career with abundant employment opportunities compared to those who do not pursue education beyond high school.

Trade and technical schools have advantages over traditional four-year colleges. For example, a vocational school costs an average of 25% of a regular four-year bachelor’s degree program and can be completed in half the time.

PHEAA is helping families in Pennsylvania deal with this debt. We recently announced that the agency could increase its maximum grant this year to a record $ 5,000. This program provides free assistance to low- and middle-income college students.

The Legislature and Governor Tom Wolf deserve praise for allocating $ 331 million to a needs-based Pennsylvania subsidy program in this year’s budget. PHEAA supplements this amount with $ 15 million from business revenue generated through its work as a student loan servicer, federal guarantor, and software as a service provider.

As a result, we return millions of dollars each year to Pennsylvania students and taxpayers. Over the past four years, PHEAA has allocated nearly $ 250 million in revenue to the fund to award students in Pennsylvania with the most financial needs.

Over the last decade, PHEAA has donated more than $ 1 billion to supplement PA state grants and other student support programs, while covering all administrative costs of the program. This makes it one of the most efficient programs of its kind in the country, as all appropriate dollars are used directly to assist Pennsylvania students in financial need.

They tend to have higher interest rates and less borrower interests while private student loans are increasingly needed to help students cover all college costs. That’s why PHEAA has worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Community Economic Development to launch PA Forward, a more affordable and accessible private student loan option that is easier to repay.

Students can borrow up to the total cost of attendance without paying. PA Forward also offers interest rate cuts for successful graduation and enrollment in an automatic withdrawal program during repayment.

The decision to attend college and pay for college may seem overwhelming, and this was true before the pandemic caused havoc to so many Pennsylvanians.

PHEAA has developed an online tool to help students and families understand their choices and make decisions that suit their situation. Ultimately, as the data show, this return on time and energy investment can be profitable over the years to come. Visit to access these resources and learn more about our efforts to help students earn a college degree.

Republican Parliamentarian Michael Paifer represents parts of Pike and Wayne counties.

PHEAA’s mission to support college students in Pennsylvania

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