$188M at Risk in Grant Program; A U.S. Department of Education Plan to Designate a Single Company to Collect $1.2 Trillion in Federal Student Loans Could Have a Major Impact on a State Grant Program for Pennsylvania College Students. [Derived Headline]

By Erdley, Debra | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 26, 2017 | Go to article overview

$188M at Risk in Grant Program; A U.S. Department of Education Plan to Designate a Single Company to Collect $1.2 Trillion in Federal Student Loans Could Have a Major Impact on a State Grant Program for Pennsylvania College Students. [Derived Headline]


Erdley, Debra, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


A U.S. Department of Education plan to designate a single company to collect $1.2 trillion in federal student loans could have a major impact on a state grant program for Pennsylvania college students.

The need-based grants, known as PHEAA grants, helped underwrite college costs for 154,000 Pennsylvania students in the 2015-16 school year.

Part of the money for the grants comes from state tax revenue, but a growing portion -- $125 million last year -- comes from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

One of PHEAA's major revenue sources -- about $188.5 million last year -- comes from fees it earns for collecting payments on $246.8 billion in outstanding federal student loans.

That money could disappear if the U.S. Department of Education, which contracts with several companies to collect student debt, transitions to a single contractor in 2019. Conversely, the state agency's revenue could balloon should it win the contract.

Officials at PHEAA declined to comment, citing the agency's participation in ongoing bidding for the federal contract.

College and university officials across Pennsylvania said it's too soon to comment on the new plan, but they are worried about PHEAA's fiscal health.

About 30,400 students, or nearly one-third of the 105,000 enrolled in the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, received PHEAA grants averaging $3,145 in 2015-16, according to system records. The grants were capped at $4,340.

"We're watching it very closely because it could have a significant impact on students if PHEAA were unable to supplement the (grant) program as they have been. It would be hard to make up more than $100 million," State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

Robert Morris University spokesman Jonathan Potts said about 35 percent of RMU students rely on PHEAA grants to help cover costs at the private university in Moon. …

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$188M at Risk in Grant Program; A U.S. Department of Education Plan to Designate a Single Company to Collect $1.2 Trillion in Federal Student Loans Could Have a Major Impact on a State Grant Program for Pennsylvania College Students. [Derived Headline]
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