Student Debt

Dayna Knight ’15 came to Drew knowing she wouldn’t be crippled by student debt.

By Leslie Garisto Pfaff

“I was jumping for joy,” says junior Dayna Knight, describing her reaction when she learned she had been accepted to Drew.

But that exultant leap wasn’t prompted solely by the news of her admittance. She’d also learned that Drew offered a generous financial aid package that covered her tuition. The scholarships meant that, unlike so many others in her generation, Knight would not graduate with a crippling debt.

In fact, when it comes to student loan debt, Drew grads are doing better than most. A recent nationwide study from the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success found the average 2012 college graduate left school with $29,400 in debt. In New Jersey that figure fell to $29,287, according to the survey, while at Drew it fell even further, to $24,470. Of the New Jersey colleges that took part in the study, 15 had higher per-student debt averages than Drew, including the College of New Jersey ($33,889) and Felician College ($38,598).

Renée Volak, director of financial assistance at Drew, credits the university’s standing to its generous scholarship aid. During the 2012–13 academic year, Volak says, Drew students received roughly $30 million in scholarships, allowing some of them to pay as little for a four-year education at Drew as they might have at a New Jersey state college.

For Knight, an anthropology major, a Drew education meant being able to study in the small-college environment she’d set her sights on. And Drew’s financial assistance means that when she graduates she can concentrate on her career rather than her debts. “It’s not going to take me two decades to pay it off,” she says. And that, she notes, is “huge”—a word she can apply to her job prospects, not her student loans.

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