Iowa Board of Regents

Institutional Aid: Filling the Aid Gap

Each year, thousands of students across the Regents Enterprise apply for some kind of financial aid, and each year millions of dollars are distributed. In 2017-18, the total amount of financial aid awarded to Regent university students topped $1 billion for the fifth-straight year.

University AidDuring the 2017-18 academic year, the Regents institutions awarded $410.8 million in institutional aid, including $263.5 million in grants and scholarships. Undergraduates were awarded 70 percent of all financial aid, including 84% of the available institutional grants. Resident undergraduates — students that call Iowa home — received more than $102 million in aid from Iowa’s public universities. Grants and scholarships, however, are only part of the financial aid package.

“One of the great things about studying at Iowa’s public universities is the access students have to world-class opportunities,” Pontius said. “Institutional aid provides funding for students to work on-campus jobs in their fields and have incredible hands-on experiences.”

The majority (62%) of institutional employment provided in 2017-18 was for graduate student assistantships, but Regent institutions still provided nearly $55 million in institutional employment funding for undergraduates. Through internships and other on-campus employment opportunities, students can graduate with less debt, more experience and more exposure to their industry than their peers.

Though federal aid is up over the last two years, total federal dollars to students at Iowa’s public universities are down from their 2011-12 peak. State-supported financial aid totals have fallen steadily over the last decade and remain low. In the same timeframe, institutional aid — that is, aid provided by the universities themselves — has grown substantially. 

“Iowa’s public universities are stepping up to fill the aid gap,” said Jason Pontius, associate chief academic officer for the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. “The growth in institutional aid reflects the universities’ commitment to providing affordable, high-quality education to Iowans.”

Grants, scholarships and employment add up. Through their ongoing commitment to accessibility and affordability, the Regents institutions remain the best deal in Iowa’s four-year higher education landscape. Keeping cost of attendance competitive and aggressively pursuing increased institutional aid allows Iowans to attend one of their public universities at a comparatively low cost. In fact, the net cost of attendance at Iowa State, Iowa and UNI is lower than every other four-year college in the state. 

“With two AAU research institutions and a comprehensive regional university, the Regents system provides something for everyone,” Pontius said. “Add in the fact that the net cost of attendance is the lowest in the state, and it’s hard to ignore the incredible value our institutions provide.”

Institutional aid is vital for helping students pay for college, and it plays a big part in keeping student debt low or avoiding it altogether. Among Iowa resident graduates from Regent institutions, 27 percent graduate with no debt at all. Many factors are at play in the student debt conversation, but low cost of attendance and robust institutional aid opportunities help students avoid debt.

The Regents appropriation request to the Iowa State Legislature was for an additional $17 million. The additional money, if appropriated, will be used entirely for need-based student financial aid, offering more proof that at Iowa’s public universities, access and affordability is always top of mind.

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