“Without the financial aid I receive, I doubt that I would be able to go to school,” said Jordain Williams, a biology major in his third semester at OCCC.
Williams is among the more than 52 percent of OCCC students who receive some sort of financial aid. This number was recently released in OCCC’s Student Financial Aid Incidental Report.
OCCC provides federal, state and institutional aid to students who qualify.
For the 2013 fiscal year, of the 21,600 students enrolled, 11,193 received some financial aid.
A total of 6,181 students received financial aid in the form of grants, such as PELL, SEOG, OTAG and BIA grants.
Some students, like Williams, receive more than one type of grant and others may choose to take out student loans for further assistance.
The amount disbursed in grants was more than $19 million, the report shows. This accounts for 41 percent of the financial aid awarded at OCCC.
Federal loans accounted for 28 percent of the financial aid given to OCCC students, with the amount totaling more than $13 million. More than 3,000 students receive this type of aid.
Aid for Veterans totaled more than $7 million with 17 percent, or 867 students, receiving veterans’ benefits.
Scholarships account for 5 percent or 1,888 students receiving some aid. Scholarship aid totaled more than $2 million.
Waivers and student work (such as federal work study) account for 6 percent (3,157) and 3 percent (504), respectively, of aid disbursement.
The mean disbursement for the 11,193 students receiving financial aid averaged around $4,204. Financial aid disbursement is down in fiscal year 2013 at $47,051,609 compared to the overall $60,797,287 disbursed in fiscal year 2012.
According to the report, the Lifetime Limit on Pell grants that became effective in 2013 affected many students’ ability to receive aid.
The Lifetime Limit made many students ineligible to receive further Pell grants due to a restriction that stopped allowing students — especially those who had been in and out of school over the years — to receive federal grants.
Students receiving federal aid have their academic progress monitored to determine whether they remain eligible for aid, based on their credit completion.
In FY2013, the academic progress of 10,970 students was evaluated with 81.2 percent or 8,911 students making satisfactory progress. About 18.8 percent or 2,059 students, were found to have unsatisfactory academic progress.
OCCC also released findings on FY2013 graduate loan debt. Of 1,410 students graduating with associate degrees, those who had loan debt had an average of $9,291.
OCCC reported on its three-year default rates compared to other colleges and universities in the state.
Between fiscal year 2009 and 2010, OCCC saw a 2 percent rate increase in the amount of students with debt who have officially been declared as being in default. To be delinquent on a debt means a person has missed one payment. To be declared as being in default, a person must have missed 270 payments.
Of 1,860 OCCC borrowers in fiscal year 2010, 488 have been declared as being in repayment on their student loans.
Student Financial Support Services Dean Harold Case said OCCC closely monitors the financial aid the school awards in an attempt to keep student debt at a minimum.
“We try not to load too much student loan debt on our students,” Case said.
“On a national level, most students come out of a community college with $8,000 or $9,000 of student debt and here, I think we must be getting the message across because … most of our students who finish school don’t have that much debt.”
Case said it’s important not to put too much loan pressure on a student from semester to semester because some students will struggle, drop out and not complete school.
“But we do know that our students who have a default problem are not the students who graduate… It’s the student who comes in, borrows and leaves. So now they’re disconnected from us, from the college and they have student loan debt.”
Case said the careful monitoring of student progress and accumulation of debt has been effective in keeping OCCC students in fairly good shape at a time when loan debt has become a national issue.
He said OCCC is partnering with the Oklahoma College Assistance Program to prevent future student loan debt issues.
OCCC is in the process of setting up a system with OCAP that will allow students who leave school for any reason to remain in contact with OCAP, he said.
“During the time that students are in payment, [OCAP] will communicate with students and make sure they’re finding the best way to cope with loan debt.”
Case said the OCAP program will be helping not only OCCC students, but Oklahoma students statewide.