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Villa Grads Have One of the Lowest Debt Levels at Graduation

Villa Maria College grads have some of the lowest debt levels upon graduation of all private, non-profit four-year institutions in the region, according to a report released in November of 2014 from The Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success.

Student borrowers across the country owed an average of $28,400 in 2013 as claimed by the report, while the average Villa student left with $22,658 of debt, which is the second lowest in the region by category. Daemen College had the third lowest student debt level at $30,079, while Hilbert College came in with the lowest at $19,319.

“Right now, we’re awarding the most institutional financial aid in the college’s history to help students succeed,” Brian Emerson, vice president for enrollment management and student services said.

With one of the lowest private tuition rates in the area, Villa continues to prove it is committed to making college affordable for its students.

Even so, the percent of graduates with debt is at the highest in the region at 91 percent. Director of Financial Aid Aimee Murch explains that the percentage is a little misleading. Villa’s student body has the highest number of PELL Grant eligible students out of all the four-year private, non-profit institutions, she explained.

“We accept students with a higher need therefore, they are more likely to need a federal loan,” Murch said. “My team and I work very hard to keep our cost to educate students low by working with students and families to find ways to make Villa affordable.”

It seems to be working as 2013-14 saw the college’s default rate drop by four percent, while 98 percent of Villa graduates their tuition with a mix of aid from the college and federal loans. In comparison, the other institutions in the category require 10 to 35 percent of their students needing private loans to close the gap on tuition, which are one of the riskier ways to pay for college, according to the report.

The commitment to student success does not end with financial aid at Villa either. The development of the Student Success Center this past year is designed to boost retention and give the necessary support to students who enter college underprepared by their high school for the transition to college. Increased access to tutors in all subjects, new campus-wide mentorship programs, and specialized advising has resulted in a higher freshman to sophomore retention rate.  In addition, efforts to foster professional skills through the Career Services Office and mandatory internship opportunities have contributed to increased level of preparation Villa students have for the world of work after graduation.

WIVB Channel 4 News produced a segment on Wednesday surveying area private colleges about the findings of the report. You can download an overview on the Class of 2013 from The Project on Student Debt.

A private, co-educational, Catholic college, Villa Maria provides the premiere student-centered experience in Western New York. Students learn and grow with a diverse population in a culture that lives its values of truth, charity, and unity.