Trustees hear reports on financial aid, applications and enrollment

November 06, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Although economic conditions have required more students and their parents to seek financial aid and other funding sources, Penn State remains highly popular among applicants and enrolled students from Pennsylvania, the United States and the world, according to panelists during a presentation today (Nov. 6) to the University's Board of Trustees.
Presenters Robert Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education; Anne Rohrbach, executive director for Undergraduate Admissions; and Anna Griswold, assistant vice president for Undergraduate Education and executive director for Student Aid, highlighted data regarding 2009-10 student enrollment, 2008-09 applications to the University and levels of financial aid during the 2008-09 school year, respectively.

Fall 2009 enrollment data released in October indicate that, University-wide, Penn State enrollment increased by 1,688 students over last year, with almost two-thirds of that growth occurring online through the World Campus.

"Pennsylvania resident enrollments have grown very modestly," Pangborn said, "with much of the increase attributable to online learners, while the enrollment of non-Pennsylvania residents -- which includes international enrollments -- has expanded steadily, again with a significant portion of the growth coming from online learners."

Online graduate students now represent more than a quarter of Penn State graduate enrollments, owing greatly to expanded professional degrees offered online, in fields such as homeland security and public health preparedness, community and economic development, supply chain management, and human resources and employment relations. The World Campus enrolled an additional 391 graduate students, a 13-percent increase from the previous year.

Greater emphasis on international student recruitment, particularly among undergraduates, has resulted in significant growth, Pangborn noted. "Undergraduate international enrollments are up by 415 students, or 27 percent over last year, and have  more than doubled since 2006. This is the largest international student enrollment at all levels in Penn State's history," he said, for a total of more than 4,600 students University-wide.   

More detailed information about Fall 2009 enrollment is available at

Rohrbach noted that since 2005, applications for undergraduate admission have jumped significantly, a trend experienced nationwide as prospective students have submitted applications to more colleges and universities than in years past.

"The trend complicates prediction of future yield rates and hence the ability to project future enrollments," she explained. The University received another record-breaking number of applications in 2009 — 109,031 across all admissions categories, as compared with 101,509 in 2008 and 99,791 in 2007.

The University received 13,410 international applications, an increase of 2,151 over last year.  The most significant portion of that growth is attributed to undergraduate applicants. A 35 percent gain in 2009 contributed to a three-year cumulative increase of 125 percent in undergraduate international applicants.

Out-of-state undergraduate applications to University Park grew by 9 percent from 2008, and in-state applications remained constant, she said. In addition, the College of Medicine saw a slight increase of 93 applications to reach a 10-year high of 7,172, and The Dickinson School of Law significantly increased its applicant total from 2008, jumping from 2,689 to 4,048 (a 50 percent increase).

Griswold reported that, because of the current economic climate, student reliance on financial aid is at an all-time high nationwide, and continuing economic circumstances affecting families of college students may mean even greater impact in the future. At Penn State, 75 percent of undergraduate students applied for some form of financial assistance during the past year, as compared with 66 percent a decade earlier.

Total assistance to undergraduates in 2008-09 was $810 million, including all federal, state, private and University funding. Nearly 17,000 undergraduate students, or 22 percent, received a University scholarship.

"Even though we entered this 2009-10 year projecting about $6 million less in endowment earnings for scholarships, making about 2,000 fewer awards, we have seen continued growth in scholarship support over the past 10 years," noted Griswold.

"We continue to make progress toward the $100 million goal for the Trustee Matching Scholarship Program, with now nearly 63 percent of the goal met," she added. "Last year, 4,676 students benefited from more than $8 million in these endowment  earnings and matching funds." The Trustee Matching Scholarship assists students with greatest financial need, including first-generation students, very low-income students and returning adult students.
Half of Penn State students receive some form of grant and/or scholarship assistance, with a median award of $4,770. One fourth of undergraduates receive assistance from a Pell Grant, including 3,000 additional students in 2009-10 than in the previous year.

State grant funding has remaining unchanged over 10 years, while Penn State's own funding commitment to student aid has grown; it now exceeds funding from state student aid programs. Ongoing state budget shortfalls continue to threaten state-funded aid programs.

Sixty percent of students receive loan assistance as part of their financial aid package in addition to grants or scholarships, and of those, 23 percent receive only loan assistance. The average loan is approximately $12,000 per year. Twelve percent of undergraduates' parents used the federal parent loan program in 2008 to help their students pay for college costs, for a total of $120 million.

Griswold noted that if proposed federal legislation passes, Pell Grants would see steady and predictable increases tied to the annual Consumer Price Index. In addition, recent legislation has increased the options for students to have some of their loan amount forgiven, as well as repayment options tied to a manageable percent of a student's income.

  • IMAGE: Chris Koleno

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Last Updated November 18, 2010