Financial Aid Default

A co-worker told me today that WGU’s student loan default rate had decreased (according to management), so she didn’t see a problem with the way students were allowed to borrow money without making progress – “They must be paying it back”.  So, I went to the Dept of Education to see what they said about WGU’s default rate.  Below is what I found.

This is what I see (sorry, I’m no math genius) – our default rate has declined, but our number of students in default has remained stable.  I’m assuming this is because the number of students in repayment has increased???

How many students do we expect to enter repayment in the next few years?  Especially since enrollment is now about 30,000 (note the enrollment for FY09 was only 13000).  Do we expect about 1,500 students per year to be in default?  Do we expect MORE students to be in default because the fraud now appears to be rampant at the university (I don’t remember it being so bad a few years ago)?

I would appreciate hearing some feedback on this issue.

FY09                       FY08                    FY07

Default Rate  4.9  6  4.4
No. in Default  166  169  90
No. in Repay  3345  2782  2028
Enrollment figures

Percentage Calculation

 13362

25

 11797

23.6

 8735

23.2

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22 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bob Mendenhall on January 21, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Actually, you’re quite wrong that management at WGU isn’t interested in hearing your constructive ideas for improvement. In the case of financial aid, Dave Grow, Stacey Ludwig-Johnson, Chris Mallett and I have been discussing this very issue for some time. Any one of us would love to hear your ideas of what we should do differently. My email is rwm@wgu.edu and my phone number is 801-993-2310, so please contact me directly. Bob Mendenhall, President WGU

    Reply

    • Welcome Bob! I’m so glad you found us! We’ve been wanting to have these discussions for some time, but have been consistently shut down within the walls of WGU. Please stay tuned as we have some frank, honest discussions about the struggles we face at WGU. I think you’ll see some great ideas suggested and we hope you, Chris, Stacey and Dave will all share in DISCUSSING them. It needs to be a discussion Bob – not a brush off. I hope you’ll stay involved, not just pass this off. We have some great things to say, but you also have to let us vent. We’ve grown very frustrated by not having a say. Once we’ve let off some steam, I’m sure you’ll see some of the insight, I see and hear on a regular basis. We have some really innovative people. Please hear them out.

      Also, please check out my post today on Ideas for Change. Hopefully we’ll see some posts from my amazing co-workers!!

      Reply

  2. I wonder if there is weight to this post from glassdoor.com regarding an interview question that was asked for the Senior Manager of Operations position at WGU:

    “We’re focusing on becoming one of the top ten best places to work, and you’ve laid out a plan that really focuses on improving the employee experience. I’ll share with you privately that this year, I plan to terminate the bottom 20% of the department’s low performing mentors. The other candidate we’re considering for this position has the experience to keep us out of the courtroom as we move aggressively to do this. What do you think you could bring to the table?”

    Reply

    • Wow!! I went and checked this out (thanks for bringing it to our attention) and was shocked. It said this happened around September 2010, just about five months before OTP was rolled out. Do you think OTP was created to weed people out?

      Reply

  3. Posted by Nacho on January 21, 2012 at 4:51 am

    This blog wouldn’t exist if people trusted you Bob. Those who have trusted are no longer with WGU, are on warnings, or PIPs. Its the truth…

    Reply

  4. Posted by Monte on January 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Of course you would prefer we talk to you directly Bob, so that you could remove those who post here from there position. As stated by nacho, there isn’t a large amount of trust there.
    If management listens so well, why do we still have OTP? Or maybe the negative info isn’t reaching your desk? It is an unfair metric, and to any business with fair practices, would never expect such a metric. When there is a significant gap between what a student(who is the one going to school) has to do to remain here at WGU, versus what the mentor is held too, it isn’t a true indicator of there mentoring.
    How is OTP a fair metric? The student has to complete 67% to keep financial aid, but the mentor is held to 100% completion. 100% would be fine if I were the one doing the work.

    Reply

    • Thanks Monte!! Yes, there is a conflict there. I’m going to post some Ideas for Change today. Please come let me know your thoughts about how to do things different. I’m guessing you (like me) have stayed awake at night formulating ways to help students succeed, without losing your job!

      Reply

  5. Posted by Justus on January 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I agree that the student’s needs and the mentors needs are completely conflicting with OTP. I also don’t understand how our most important goal is graduating students, but if students graduate, it counts against our OTP. How does that work? We do our job and meet the most important requirement of the university and it’s not measured in any way. In fact it hurts my numbers and any possibility of raises, and puts me in danger of disciplinary action. Does that make any sense to you?

    Reply

    • Another great point Justus! I sometimes think graduates should be the highest ranked KPI. What do you think? How would it be structured? Number of graduates? Do you include some measure of how long it took them?

      Reply

      • Posted by MAC on January 24, 2012 at 2:52 am

        If number of grads were to become a KPI, there has to be some measure as far as the projected number of graduates and the average number of units to completion. It cannot be a raw number, because we don’t all receive similar cohorts of students.

        Example: A mentor I work with has been here only one month longer than I (about a year and a half) and has had an insane number of grads. Me? 3. The difference? This mentor inherited a number of students from student mentors moving into program manager, or other positions, with only a few terms to complete, whereas I received only new enrollments. Her raw numbers look great, but at 3, I beat my projected grads by 150%.

        I think including a measure of how long it for a student to complete the degree could be punitive. Especially if the idea is to graduate competent, knowledgeable, students. The concept of acceleration is great. But not all students want to, or can, accelerate and I do not believe student mentors should be penalized because we allow our students to graduate as projected.

      • You bring up some good points. I think we need to start a “category” for grads. Look there for my response!

  6. Posted by scaredatwgu on January 22, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    First off, I love my job and I love being able to support my family doing something that can be so rewarding. But I don’t like that while doing it, I’m am ever fearful that there will be a surprise call from management telling me that my job is in jeopardy. Who can work with such anxiety and fear? My job is not worth the toll it takes on my health on a constant basis.

    I work very hard to make sure my students are successful and they graduate, regardless of SAP and OTP; through my support and encouragement, through frustrating assessments and life changing events, my students persevere. Twice a year, at Academic Meetings we hear over and over that is our goal…where is that number in our monthly metrics?

    Unfortunately, we are not measured on that ultimate goal nor are we as mentors offered the support and trust needed to be successful. We are a very educated group of employees, mostly masters and doctorate educated, but you wouldn’t know it when regular conversations center around numbers we’re suppose to be making like we’re sales reps or telemarketers. Regardless of any successes we may be having, there’s always a ‘but’ or ‘however’ to follow in any conversation. Our students are very smart and they ask or comment often about their role in how we’re measured as mentors, how they’re not passing an exam makes us look bad…we don’t have to say anything, they know.

    When WGU asks what they can do to improve trust, fairness, and respect to become a GPTW? LISTEN. Listening requires you to not talk, to not argue, to not be defensive. If you want to know how we are feeling, what we think you can do to help us (which in turn helps everyone), take notes, maybe ask some clarifying questions, but don’t argue and don’t retaliate. Success doesn’t come because we all say yes, you need some no’s in there, some ideas that challenge the status quo, otherwise, you face becoming stagnant and that has never been the goal at WGU.

    Reply

    • Very well said Scaredatwgu! I’m thankful that you pointed out how much most of really love our students and what we do BUT we’re still fearful of retaliation if we say “no” or challenge the status quo. That is not a great place to work.

      I was also very moved by your statement that we’re a highly educated group that talks mostly about KPIs, like sales reps or telemarketers. We RARELY have challenging, critical discussions about education. We ALMOST NEVER talk about new theory (or contributing to new theories) – we talk about KPIs, then we talk about them some more. I’m not sure about you, but I would really, really appreciate an in-service meeting where we had “higher level” discussions. Where we pick apart an idea, rework it, then rework it some more. And I DO NOT mean a discussion where we “brainstorm” ways to get our students on OTP! Let’s make it an enriching, learning opportunity for the faculty!

      I too will second your statement that “Listening requires you to not talk, to not argue, to not be defensive.” I am frustrated when meetings are quickly “shut down” because Chris shoots down an idea before it’s even developed. For instance, we have been asking for a while to have a place to post anonymous comments, suggestions, etc. Well, recently I heard yet another co-worker ask Chris for such a thing. His response was “The GPTW survey is anonymous. Give your feedback there.” He then immediately moved on to another person. No seeking clarification, no further discussion. He could have done a poll in the online meeting room to measure the support of such an issue – easy to do. But he just dismissed him/her and moved on. When employees voices are not heard it leads to seeking an outlet elsewhere – like this blog.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments! Please share more specifics about what you’d like to see changed. This is the place.

      Reply

      • Posted by Sam on January 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm

        I totally agree with your statements…I think it’s not asking much to have a place to make anonymous comments, and if Chris thinks the GPTW survey is anonymous, then he had better think again…if you fill out the survey it asks about your background, how much time you work at WGU, your department, etc…it doesn’t take long to figure out who is making the responses to the survey if they are negative or whittling the field down to a few individuals and then monitoring them to see if they are the ones rocking the boat.

        I also agree that OTP is something that’s totally unfair to mentors…some assessments require way more time to complete than OTP, and for that matter, if a student is struggling with a concept such as math or writing are you going to force them to take an assessment before they are ready for the sake of OTP? Also, if you then let the student not take the assessment and give them more time, your OTP slips and you get a bad report to your supervisor when you were looking out for the student’s best interests….

        I think as long as management treats the mentor population like telemarketers and car salesmen we will continue to see more posts like the ones here. WGU always talks about improving the “student experience”..what about the MENTOR EXPERIENCE???

  7. Posted by Justus on January 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Improving the mentor experience would automatically improve the student experience. They know us well. We speak every week for years. They know when we’re stressed or happy. As mentors we are smarter than we’re given credit for and our students need to get some credit too. They can sense our frustration, as much as we try to smile through the calls.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Curtis Kale on June 20, 2012 at 3:32 am

    As a student who does a minimum of 25 CUs per term and finishes every term at 100% SAP I think the folks on here fretting about financial aid should be minding their own business. My grant and Stafford loans are a matter between me and the U.S. Department of education. It is WGU’s job to educate me, and WGU has done very well so far. The issue of financial aid is different with every individual student. When WGU recently announced that the housing allotment is set to be slashed by more than $3000, this fact alone will result in me not being able to pursue my MBA as I hoped I would. I respectfully submit that I’m a 43 year old single dad, and any matters involving financing are no body’s business but my own.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Curtis Kale on June 20, 2012 at 3:49 am

    One last thought. The financial aid changes have really left a bad taste in my mouth about WGU. It’s already all over the internet about how bad a place to work WGU has become. And now you’re turning students against you via equally harmful financial aid policies. I wonder if this is tenable? So, the cost of housing has gone down $3000 this year? In who’s universe has housing cost decreased three thousand friggin’ dollars in one year?

    Thanks for hosting this message board. It has allowed me to vent about my frustrations as a student. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

  10. Posted by No one on July 15, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    Curtis, you’re awesome for doing such a good job in accelerating! You are VERY rare with those using FA. I work on the enrollment side and have to say that the financial aid default/fraud issue concerns me. It’s shocking how many students call up to enroll and demand a start date based on their loans going into default. “Good fit” – I think not. BUT, if I don’t enroll them and it gets escalated, it falls back on me. I’m told to not be judgmental and to give everyone a chance. So many of the ‘students’ do the bare minimum they need to stay in good standing. I recently had someone that decided to move to Hawaii by maxing out their loans. When I said you were very rare, I mean it. I’m sorry that others have affected you.

    Reply

    • Posted by ijustwanttofinish on August 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      I am right there with you, Curtis. I haven’t been able to accelerate as quickly, but I am definitely making lots of progress. I pass all my CU’s every term plus some extra when I can. There was a term where I did not pass one particular class, but I added another class to my term and passed that one in its place (the one class ended up taking a whole lot longer than I expected-which was difficult with surgery-but the objective exam was much easier to get complete!). I wish they could lower the cost of attendance figure for new students who haven’t proved themselves and/or those who are not really “trying.” Let those of us who are actually earning the right to take out more loans as we need them for the time being do so. I paid all my loans from my first college degree. I will do so after WGU, too.

      Reply

  11. Posted by ijustwanttofinish on August 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    WGU definitely needs to have something done about its FinAid dept. Apparently, for the last 2 and a half years, I was wrongly awarded a particular grant. I thought I was eligible; everything I read stated I was! I had NO idea I was NOT eligible. THAT was the financial aid department’s job; they are the ones that are supposed to look at requirements/regulations and determine eligibility. Now, it has came to light that I was ineligible for this grant because I already have a BA degree (I am working on another BS degree from WGU). WGU KNEW I had the BA degree; I sent in transcripts that stated I had the degree and I even received transfer credit. I didn’t hide a thing. Now, they have reversed the grant for the last TWO AND A HALF YEARS…and I owe the school $10,000 because of their mistake. I cannot afford to pay that. I am struggling to get by as it is. I went back to school because I was laid off trying to improve my job outlook. Now, I don’t even know what to do. Realistically, it looks like I am going to have to drop out because I don’t see WGU letting me continue my studies with $10k in debt even if its not my fault. And, of course, I cannot just go else where to finish because, before release of transcripts, account balances have to be $0. Plus, I DON’T want to go elsewhere. I have had a great experience here thus far, and I am so close to finishing my studies. Feels like my life is turned upside down right now. I don’t know who to contact besides FinAid. I wish I could talk to someone higher up. 😦

    Reply

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