With the burden of student loan debt a national problem, many states are stepping in to help residents pay for college, realizing that the financial burden they’re getting into to earn a degree is hurting the local economy.

Oklahoma is one the states that is pouring more money into its financial aid system despite the fact that its higher education budget has decreased over the years.  At its peak in 2008, the state’s higher education budget was more than $1 billion; it’s now over $800 million. But despite the fall in funds, the amount allocated to financial aid has gone up, with one out of every $10 going towards financial aid.

“There’s about $100 million that flows through this office in state financial aid,” said Bryce Fair, associate vice chancellor for state grants and scholarships, to NewsOK.

The fact that the state is still earmarking so much money towards financial aid shows just how important it is to Oklahoma’s overall economy. For instance, Oklahoma even has its own Oklahoma student loans servicer, though it services student loans form out of state students as well. Research shows that graduates with large monthly loan payments won’t spend money on large purchases, like buying a house or car. In extreme cases, they are putting off getting married and starting families.

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Right now, 70% of undergraduate students at the 25 public colleges and universities in Oklahoma receive some form of financial aid. Grants, scholarships, and work-study aid account for more than half of those dollars. 42% comes from student loans whether they are federal or private loans, but the majority of those are taken out by out-of-state students. Half of Oklahoma students have zero student debt at graduation.

Most of the state’s financial aid comes from the Oklahoma’s Promise tuition scholarship which doesn’t rely on state money. But the other two main programs—Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant and the Academic Scholars Program—have both seen their budgets chopped in recent years. State legislators hope to rectify that soon: the 2018 higher education budget requests money that would return all cuts made to the programs.


image copyright Becky McCray