Task Force on Student Institutional Debt

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Team ID: 
College / Administrative Unit: 
Educational Equity
Date Started: 
April 2009
To evaluate the impact of financial holds on the success of students in achieving their baccalaureate degree, including the exploration of changes in University processes, which will minimize negative impacts.

A financial hold prevents a student from scheduling classes for a future semester, obtaining a transcript for admission to another institution, or receiving a paper copy of their graduation diploma. The most recent data show that nearly 80 percent of current financial holds are for students who are low-income and/or first generation.

The goal is to develop recommendations to be implemented by University departments and units for safety nets that will significantly decrease, if not eliminate, the need for financial holds for our most at-risk students.

To analyze the impact of this phenomenon, the task force examined a snapshot of undergraduate student data for students who were categorized as low-income and/or first generation, who had a financial hold placed on their record between 2005 and 2008, and who were not registered for classes for the fall semester 2009. This snapshot covered a balance owing to the institution of $763,511.46. The pool of students was a mix of:in-state/out-of-state; all campuses; a mix of race/ethnicity; and all levels of undergraduates. The one common trait was either low-income or first-generation, or both, obtained from the University standard indicators of these measures.

Currently the team will be analyzing the following:
1. A more recent snapshot of student data on financial holds to determine if the same pattern for low-income, first generation students persists; are there indications that debt is being paid and at what rate?
2. How each department interacts with our targeted student population, first-generation and low-income, and how processes can be combined to use resources more efficiently; 3. The academic actions a student takes, i.e., dropping a course, failing a course, and overall grade-point average that negatively impact a student's financial status; 4. How both students and units at University Park and other Penn State campuses are currently addressing these financial situations; 5. Early warning signs that can be clearly defined.

During the spring semester of 2011 we will be conducting a survey of faculty and staff advisors to evaluate current processes in place to identify students dealing with financial issues i.e. the inability to pay the semester bill and/or achieve course registered status for the semester, etc.; and to explore safety nets that can be put in to place to best help students avoid financial holds to their transcripts.

As we continue to review and gather information our ultimate goal will be to create recommendations for University-wide procedural change (by April of 2011)and work with the University strategic planning committees on the topic of student debt, to ensure we are not working at cross purposes.

Contact Person: 
Teresa McGowan
  • Teresa McGowan, Chair
  • Dan Nugent, Facilitator
  • Theresa Bonk, Member
  • Moses Davis, Member
  • Dan Genard, Member
  • Amanda Knerr, Member
  • Kathy Krinks, Member
  • Melissa Kunes, Member
  • Olivia Lewis, Member
  • Marsha Perry, Member
  • Curtis Price, Member
  • Carolyn Saona, Member
  • Doug Tice, Member
  • Eric White, Member
  • Ron Williams, Member