Narimane Khaled is working hard this summer, taking courses so she can earn her degree in aerospace engineering a year early to save money. Still, the native of Algeria figures she will owe at least $56,000 for her education at WPI when she graduates.
Her situation is not uncommon – here and across the country. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average senior who has loans will owe $26,000 upon graduation. However, many former students owe much more than that. Among graduates of all ages with loans, 13 percent owe more than $50,000, and 4 percent owe more than $100,000.
Their plight is not lost on officials at WPI, where the yearly cost for on-campus students tops $58,000.
“Financial aid has been talked about a lot at the national level,” said Ajayi Harris, associate director of annual giving. “At WPI and at the Annual Fund, it’s one of our priorities as a fund-raising organization to help as many students who are able to go here.”
While the Annual Fund helps cover a variety of campus needs, including scholarships for students, this spring the Student Call Center launched a special campaign to raise money specifically for scholarships. Alumni who had already donated to the fund were asked to make a second gift, and the effort was extended to parents, faculty, and staff.
The response was encouraging, according to Harris, with more than half of the 700 alumni contacted agreeing to give again. In many cases, they volunteered to donate more than was asked. “That’s unusual,” said Ashley Hubacz, the Call Center director.
Harris said the campaign did not have a specific goal and he did not reveal how much was raised.
“We wanted to raise as much as we could,” he said. “If we raised enough for one student to go here, that’s great.”
In the 2012–13 academic year, WPI awarded $63 million to undergraduates in need- and merit-based scholarships, according to Monica Blondin, director of financial aid. More than 93 percent of the undergraduates received some scholarship money.
In addition, WPI lent more than $2 million in subsidized loans, according to Blondin, and students can also receive loans and work study funding from federal and state sources.
Not too far removed from college graduation and in the midst of paying off her own loans, Hubacz said she’s pleased to be part of the special scholarship campaign, which she called a pilot program.
“I definitely feel happy in my position here that I’m raising money for students,” she said.
“The need is great,” Harris added. “There are great students admitted to go here, but maybe couldn’t afford it. The more that we can remove that barrier, the better.”
Khaled’s family moved to the United States eight years ago, and has been unable to help with her college costs. To make ends meet, she does work study and helps out Hubacz at the Call Center. But the $11,500 she gets annually from WPI is crucial, as is graduating in just three years.
Once she has that aerospace engineering degree in hand, she’s confident of her job prospects.