Journal of Nursing Education

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The Unhealthy Financial Aid Situation for Health Science Careers

Jean B Moore, RN, MSN

Abstract

How many undergraduate students are entering the field of health sciences and how will their education be financed? According to data supplied by the High School and Beyond study by Coleman (1981), 749 out of 28,240 members of the class of 1980, or 2.652°? of high school seniors, were preparing to enter health science careers. The Coleman Report defined health science careers as nursing, optometry, and pharmacy. Of those seniors planning to enter such careers, over 75rr said they were planning to use some form of financial assistance to fund their education. Since 1980, however, the financial aid situation has changed completely. The shrinking budget for financial aid to college students is influenced by extensive reductions in federal funding with more rescissions expected shortly.

The actual cost of education for a health science career varies greatly but it is not unusual for tuition costs alone to be over $5,000 per year, or $20,000 for a four-year baccalaureate degree. A baccalaureate degree is required for a pharmacist or optometrist ; although 8T"c of registered nurses do not have such a degree, the American Nurses' Association First Position on Education for Nursing (1965) states that minimum preparation for practice of professional nursing should be a baccalaureate degree, a position which the New York State Nurses' Association (1972) suggests be implemented by 1985.

Formerly, those students in pharmacy or optometry could use Health Professions Student Loans or Scholarships; now scholarships have been reduced. Formerly, nursing students could use either the Nursing Student Loan Program or the Nursing Scholarship Program as the best possibilities for financing their education. This 1981-82 academic year the Nursing Scholarship Program funding was completely removed; Nursing Loans were reduced by 509c. Nursing students, as well as those in other health science careers, should learn about and will begin turning to other programs for funding. Unfortunately those other programs are also experiencing funding reductions currently. For example, Pell Grants, formerly known as Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, have been cut from $1,750 to $1,650 maximum allowable; further, the revised eligibility schedule will eliminate an estimated 250,000 students. Guaranteed Student Loans (GSLs) are now restricted. For families with adjusted gross income of no more than $30,000, GSLs are available as formerly; however, if the family's adjusted gross income is over $30,000, need must be demonstrated. A 5% origination fee is being imposed on new loans and this amount is expected to increase shortly. Social Security education benefits are being phased out. In the new parent loan program, interest rates have been increased from 9Tr to 14% (Fiske, 1981). In all, although the rate varies among states and schools, it is estimated that there is approximately a 40% cut in federal funds for higher education this year.

Since many of these changes occurred after October 1, 1981, most students had already received funds for the 1981-82 academic year. Therefore, the major impact will not be felt until 1982-83. Unfortunately, by then, still further reductions will have occurred (Fiske, 1981).

Because the recent reduction in federal funding for higher education will affect both potential college students and the colleges or universities they plan to attend, more creative approaches will be needed for financing education for health science careers in the future. It is the purpose of this article to provide information which may be useful in planning future financial aid strategies. The first topic presented is further data about actual cuts in federal financial aid programs. Next, the High School and Beyond report (Coleman, 1981) and its predecessor, the National Longitudinal Study (1972) are described. Data from the studies pertaining to college attendance, indebtedness,…

How many undergraduate students are entering the field of health sciences and how will their education be financed? According to data supplied by the High School and Beyond study by Coleman (1981), 749 out of 28,240 members of the class of 1980, or 2.652°? of high school seniors, were preparing to enter health science careers. The Coleman Report defined health science careers as nursing, optometry, and pharmacy. Of those seniors planning to enter such careers, over 75rr said they were planning to use some form of financial assistance to fund their education. Since 1980, however, the financial aid situation has changed completely. The shrinking budget for financial aid to college students is influenced by extensive reductions in federal funding with more rescissions expected shortly.

The actual cost of education for a health science career varies greatly but it is not unusual for tuition costs alone to be over $5,000 per year, or $20,000 for a four-year baccalaureate degree. A baccalaureate degree is required for a pharmacist or optometrist ; although 8T"c of registered nurses do not have such a degree, the American Nurses' Association First Position on Education for Nursing (1965) states that minimum preparation for practice of professional nursing should be a baccalaureate degree, a position which the New York State Nurses' Association (1972) suggests be implemented by 1985.

Formerly, those students in pharmacy or optometry could use Health Professions Student Loans or Scholarships; now scholarships have been reduced. Formerly, nursing students could use either the Nursing Student Loan Program or the Nursing Scholarship Program as the best possibilities for financing their education. This 1981-82 academic year the Nursing Scholarship Program funding was completely removed; Nursing Loans were reduced by 509c. Nursing students, as well as those in other health science careers, should learn about and will begin turning to other programs for funding. Unfortunately those other programs are also experiencing funding reductions currently. For example, Pell Grants, formerly known as Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, have been cut from $1,750 to $1,650 maximum allowable; further, the revised eligibility schedule will eliminate an estimated 250,000 students. Guaranteed Student Loans (GSLs) are now restricted. For families with adjusted gross income of no more than $30,000, GSLs are available as formerly; however, if the family's adjusted gross income is over $30,000, need must be demonstrated. A 5% origination fee is being imposed on new loans and this amount is expected to increase shortly. Social Security education benefits are being phased out. In the new parent loan program, interest rates have been increased from 9Tr to 14% (Fiske, 1981). In all, although the rate varies among states and schools, it is estimated that there is approximately a 40% cut in federal funds for higher education this year.

Since many of these changes occurred after October 1, 1981, most students had already received funds for the 1981-82 academic year. Therefore, the major impact will not be felt until 1982-83. Unfortunately, by then, still further reductions will have occurred (Fiske, 1981).

Because the recent reduction in federal funding for higher education will affect both potential college students and the colleges or universities they plan to attend, more creative approaches will be needed for financing education for health science careers in the future. It is the purpose of this article to provide information which may be useful in planning future financial aid strategies. The first topic presented is further data about actual cuts in federal financial aid programs. Next, the High School and Beyond report (Coleman, 1981) and its predecessor, the National Longitudinal Study (1972) are described. Data from the studies pertaining to college attendance, indebtedness, factors influencing choice of a college, and student plans to use various sources of financial aid are included.

Federal Financial Aid Program Rescissions

Reduction in federally funded financial aid programs appear in Tables 1 and 2. Table 1 presents data related to health science career financial assistance. Table 2 lists information related to other major aid programs; included in it are further predicted cuts. The tables show that health science career funding has been reduced to 80% of the amount expected for the 1981-82 academic year. The tables further show that next year other major aid programs to which health science career students may be turning will experience a reduction in funding for 1982-83. At present, this reduction will be 88% of the 81-82 budget, according to appropriations already.- approved. Further cuts considered for March 1982 could have reduced the 1982-83 year budget to 64.9% of the 81-82 funding but these further cuts were never enacted.

High School and Beyond

High School and Beyond, better known as the Coleman Report (1981), is a major longitudinal study commissioned by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a section of the Department of Education, and conducted by the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago. The Coleman Report was designed to expand upon the National Longitudinal Study begun by NCES in 1972. The purpose of the National Longitudinal Study was to obtain comprehensive information about students, teachers, and schools. Although the Coleman Report uses some of the original items from the National Longitudinal Study, new items to study additional variables have been added. Moreover, sophomores as well as seniors are included in the Coleman Report.

Some findings of Burkheimer and Novak's 1979 follow-up in the National Longitudinal Study, completed in 1981, show that seven and a half years after high school approximately 25% of the class of 1972 had acquired a baccalaureate degree or higher; another 25% had never enrolled for higher education; major fields of study were about 50% Arts and Sciences and 50% applied fields, including health sciences; among those who had enrolled in post-secondary education, about 25% still had debts for educational expenses in October 1979; median indebtedness for post-secondary education was almost $2,000; 80% of indebted individuals were presently repaying their loans; 46% of individuals within health service professions had received federally funded financial aid; and workers' earnings increased with greater educational preparation.

Questions which can be answered by the data from the Coleman Report include the following: 1) What factors influence college selection, in addition to those which are financially related? 2) What percent of students entering health science careers state that they do not know about financial aid? 3) How many students say that they are planning to use nursing loans or scholarships to finance their college education? 4) How many students say they plan to use at least one type of financial aid and how are their selections distributed?

Table

TABLE 1HEALTH PROFESSIONS AND NURSING

TABLE 1

HEALTH PROFESSIONS AND NURSING

Table

TABLE 2FINANCIAL AID EXPENDITURES ON OTHER MAJOR PROGRAMS

TABLE 2

FINANCIAL AID EXPENDITURES ON OTHER MAJOR PROGRAMS

College Selection: Data from the Coleman Report, where the selection variable was health sciences (registered nursing, optometry, and pharmacy) on field of study in college, show that 90% of this group were women whereas 10% were men. The majority of the group selected four-year, public in-state colleges. In addition, although college expenses and availability of financial aid were deemed very important to over 40% of the students, availability of specific courses and academic reputation of the institution were important to even more students, 71% and 54.2% respectively. Table 3 shows the percentage responses.

Knowledge of Financial Aid: The Coleman Report identified 20 financial aid programs and classified them according to three categories - scholarships, loans, or work programs. The report asked the 28,240 seniors whether they planned to use each of the 20 types of financial aid. Possible responses were "yes," "no," and "don't know enough about this type of aid to answer the question." The percentage responses reported subsequently are for the 749 seniors choosing health science careers and they are relative rather than adjusted percentages. In the Coleman Report, 22.635% is the mean of students who state that they do not know enough about various types of financial aid to answer the questions about selection of programs. Further, 26.533% = mean of those stating that they do not know about loans. 20.982% = mean of those stating that they do not know about grants. 20.833% = mean of those stating that they do not know about work programs.

Table

TABLE 3COLLEGE SELECTION

TABLE 3

COLLEGE SELECTION

Interpretation of this data is difficult, however, because it is not known why students answered "no" to the question of planning to use specific types of financial aid. Perhaps they, too, did not know enough about the source of aid to choose it. If that is the case, more than the reported number of over 22% of seniors do not know about various sources of financial aid shortly before their graduation from high school.

Financial Aid Programs for Nursing Students: Of even more interest than those without enough information to answer the question, are those students who answered "yes" to the question of planning to use some type of financial aid. Of these students, 18.6% said they were planning to use the Nursing Student Loan Program and 25.0% said they were planning to use the Nursing Scholarship Program.

Financial Aid Selections: Table 4 shows the distribution of selections for each financial aid program. The "yes" responses are somewhat questionable for it is not known whether those planning to apply for a specific type of financial aid would actually qualify. For example, it is doubtful whether almost 40% of students in this group would have family incomes which would qualify them for the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, now called the Pell Grant. It is even more doubtful that 1.5% of high school seniors would also be veterans and so qualify for Veterans Educational Assistance. Nonetheless, it is important to realize that many of these students selected sources of financial aid in 1980 which were no longer available in 1981 and that further rescission in other programs seems inevitable.

Table

TABLE 4FINANCIAL AID INFORMATION

TABLE 4

FINANCIAL AID INFORMATION

Further analysis of the data shows that for all 749 health science career students: 20.566% selected no financial aid programs, 75.434% selected at least one type of financial aid, and 16.0% selected 1 type of financial aid only; of these, only three students chose nursing loan only and only six chose nursing scholarship only.

Conclusions

The Burkheimer and Novak (1981) findings from their 1979 follow-up to the National Longitudinal Study are important when considering the possible long-term effect on students of the present financial aid situation. For example, due to lack of financial aid it might be expected that more individuals in the future would be indebted for their college expenses and that the amount of this indebtedness would be higher. It might also be expected that less than 25% of future students would acquire a baccalaureate degree and than more than 25% would never enroll due to lack of funds. Effects of less academic preparation would be experienced as lower individual incomes and fewer prepared members in the multiple disciplines requiring baccalaureate degrees, including health sciences. Having fewer prepared members in health science careers would have major negative effects upon the amount and quality of service which could be provided to society.

The Coleman Report Findings indicate, however, that students choose to attend colleges based upon factors in addition to cost and availability of financial aid. The report also shows that the majority of students plan to attend public, in-state universities, a trend shown also to be developing in the history of financial aid. Less funding could be expected to accelerate this trend away from the more expensive out-of-state, private institutions. The trend toward fulltime study might be reversed, however, if more students cannot afford full-time tuition and if they work to finance their education.

Other information in the Coleman Report indicates that more than 22% of high school seniors state that they do not know enough about various sources of financial aid and the number may actually be much higher. Today, with multiple changes in financial aid programs, even more students would lack information. Therefore, high school counselors, university financial aid officers and faculty members need to stay informed about the current financial aid assistance situation. Current information must be shared with students and realistic sources of such aid, as well as employment possibilities, suggested to current and prospective students. If present federal funding reductions are not halted, and in most cases reversed, alternative approaches to financing will need to be identified. Although the philosophy of financial aid administration has always included the belief that students and their families have the primary responsibility for providing funding (American College Testing Program, 1979), in reality each university needs a certain number of students each year to survive. In order to secure the necessary enrollment, universities have long recognized that they must be able to suggest sources of financial assistance.

Most important, from the Coleman Report is the information that students in 1980 were planning to use sources of financial aid which are no longer available in 1981. Further reductions in aid programs are expected to continue. Since extensive federal financial assistance to higher education is disappearing, more creative approaches for financing health science career education are clearly needed.

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the following individuals at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D. C. for their assistance with this article: Dr. John Convey, Associate Professor, School of Education, for statistical and computer programming support; Robert Talbot, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, for providing information about financial aid; and John J. Lally, Financial Aid Officer, for providing information about literature and other sources of data on financial aid.

References

  • American College Testing Program. A Counselor's Guide to Financial Aid. Iowa City, Iowa: American College Testing Program, 1979.
  • American Nurses' Association. American Nurses' Association first position on nursing education. American Journal of Nursing, 1965, 65(12), 106-111.
  • Burkheimer, G.J., & Novak, T.P. A Capsule Description of Young Adults Seven and One-Half Years after High School. Prepared for National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, August 1981.
  • Coleman, J. High School and Beyond. National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, 1981. (Data files on computer tapes. Available from National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, D.C.)
  • Department of Education. Handbook for Financial Aid Administrators. Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 1981.
  • Fiske, E. B. After the federal cutbacks, a new era in paying for college. The New York Times, November 15, 1981, Section 12, pp. 1 & 33.
  • National Center for Education Statistics. National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972. Washington, D.C: Department of Education, 1972.
  • New York State Nurses' Association. Priorities on preparation for practice: The New York State Nurses' Association's 1972 position statement on nursing education. The Journal of New York State Nurses' Association, 1972, 3(1), 6-11.

TABLE 1

HEALTH PROFESSIONS AND NURSING

TABLE 2

FINANCIAL AID EXPENDITURES ON OTHER MAJOR PROGRAMS

TABLE 3

COLLEGE SELECTION

TABLE 4

FINANCIAL AID INFORMATION

10.3928/0148-4834-19830901-08

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