Seeking and Winning Financial Aid

Black's How-To Book Is Directed to the Increasing Numbers of Students Nationwide Who Are Applying for Assistance

by Jacqueline Frost

Need to quickly calculate your student loan payment? Refer to Rich Black's rule number 9. Considering a part-time graduate study option? Try Rich Black's rule number 48.

These tips and more are spelled out by Black, director of financial aid, in his new book "The Complete Family Guide to College Financial Aid." The 149-page book outlines common-sense strategies for single parents, disabled students and veterans as well as high school seniors to get the most out of student financial aid.

Black's book comes out at a time when student debt is soaring and Congress is considering several changes that could have a major impact on student loans and the universities that administer them.

In his book, Black tells readers how, when and where to apply for all kinds of student financial aid. "It's a short, simple book that covers everything. It's comprehensive and easy to read," said Black.

He said a chapter devoted to the needs of student parents sets it apart from similar books. "That is a group that is often overlooked," said Black.

To write the book, Black said he drew on his 30 years experience in the financial aid business and from his personal perspective as a parent. The book is available at the ASUC bookstore.

He is the father a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of a private college, a Berkeley graduate who is at UC Davis medical school, a freshman engineering student at UC San Diego, and a tenth-grader who excels in athletics and music.

His message: More often than not, higher education is a good investment.

Yet he urges students to compare the cost of higher education to the extra income they will earn with a college degree. If the cost exceeds the benefits, don't do it, he cautions. "Accumulating payments that are more than you can afford to repay will lead to a poor credit rating, which will degrade rather than increase the quality of your life," Black writes.

Students across the nation are borrowing in record numbers to pay for a college education. According to a recent report, "College Debt and the American Family," by the Boston-based Education Resources Institute in cooperation with the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, D.C., students borrowed 21 percent more from 1992 to 1993.

The report found the college debt is increasing the fastest for students at public four-year colleges and universities.

From 1990 to 1993, the average debt for undergraduates at public four-year institutions increased by a total of 13 percent, while the average debt for students attending private four-year institutions grew by only 2 percent. The report said students are using loans to finance the increasing cost of public institutions.

The study also found 68 percent of families consider student loans a necessary but major financial hardship. Many worried that they will have to postpone or forgo major spending because of the costs of college.

Black said a number of proposals currently under consideration by Congress could also have a big impact on thousands of Berkeley students.

Congress may ask legal residents to seek financial assistance from their sponsors before applying for federal financial aid. Black estimated that such a measure potentially could effect 3,500 Berkeley students and cost the university millions in lost federal aid.

Other measures under consideration in Washington include an .85 percent tax charged to schools for every student loan. Black estimated that it could cost Berkeley, which administers about $100 million in student loans, as much as $850,000. Among other proposals:

* An increase of 1 percent in the interest rate of loans obtained by parents of students attending college.

* The cancellation of the interest-free six-month grace period now enjoyed by students after graduation.

* The elimination of the Direct Loan program. Under the plan, banks and not schools issue student loans. Black criticized the proposal because the Direct Loan program has all but eliminated lines in the financial aid office.

Despite the increased financial pressure, there are bright spots. More Berkeley students are graduating, taking less time to graduate and are defaulting on the loans at a low rate, Black said.


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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