Lower debt and new scholarships

After a decade of helping students increase their financial literacy and lower their levels of student-loan debt, the University of Northern Iowa has been recognized as having one of the lowest student-indebtedness averages in the nation.

This recognition, combined with the announcement of substantial new scholarships for incoming students, is positioning UNI as one of the most accessible higher-education institutions in the region.UNI campus

In its fourth annual “Student Loan Debt by School by State” report, LendEDU, an online marketplace that helps consumers learn about and compare a wide range of financial products including student loans, included UNI in the top 10 percent of lowest student-debt figures in the country. LendEDU’s analysis included nearly 1,000 four-year public and private higher education institutions across the United States.

In 2018, UNI students graduated with the second-lowest debt in the state, marking more than a decade of decreasing student debt that highlight the institution’s continual efforts to provide an accessible, high-quality education. 

"We are committed to providing our students with the resources to educate themselves about student-loan debt, and to help them make the best financial choices about their education,” said UNI President Mark A. Nook. “Helping them develop this literacy early gives them a strong foundation to make wise financial decisions for the rest of their lives.”

In order to combat rising student debt, the university first introduced proactive financial literacy programming for students in the 2009-10 academic year, which included a requirement for loan counseling. These changes started a campus-wide trend of cutting debt, resulting in a 14 percent decrease in average loan debt over the past 10 years. In 2019, UNI’s average student indebtedness was $23,671, a decrease from the previous year of more than $800.

“To be recognized as a university with one of the lowest indebtedness levels in the nation is a credit to our students,” said Tim Bakula, financial aid director. “Over the past decade, our students have helped create a culture of consciousness around student loans. It’s not uncommon for students to leave their loan counseling sessions deciding to borrow substantially less than they initially planned.”

To further lower the cost of attending UNI, the university is announcing the establishment of new scholarships for incoming resident and non-resident students beginning in the 2020-21 academic year.

All Iowa residents applying to UNI will be eligible for the new Panther Impact Award, which will award between $1,000 and $3,500 annually based on standardized test scores and GPA. Students from traditionally underrepresented populations also will qualify for the “Unifying Through Excellence and Diversity” (UNI-TED) Scholarship, which provides between $1,000 and $2,000 per year based on academic performance.

Additionally, newly graduated non-resident high school students will now receive an automatic $5,000 award upon admission through the new UNI Advantage program. These out-of-state students can also receive an additional $1,000 or $2,000 through the award if they meet academic benchmarks. Additional legacy scholarships are available for non-resident students whose parent, grandparent or sibling graduated from UNI - or if they have a sibling currently enrolled.

“Our graduates - those from Iowa as well as other states - head into the Iowa workforce at very high rates, so it is extremely important that we make attending UNI as financially feasible as possible,” Nook said. “It is our responsibility to prepare students to meet Iowa’s workforce demand. Making the institution financially accessible, rewarding more students for academic performance and continuing to educate them on keeping their debted low are all ways we can make UNI one of the best options in the region.”