By Sean MulliganSTAFF WRITER
Quietly, for the past few years, Hofstra has lent out small increments of money to students in a major financial bind. Unbeknownst to most students, Hofstra offers their own alternative to federal student loans. The mysterious private loan program has gone unnoticed by most of Hofstra’s coeds and goes by many different and vague names.
“The Hofstra HELP, Hagedorn and Law Loans, are private loans offered by the University,” according to Hofstra’s website. Essentially each program discretely offers money to students in need the same way a bank would.
With that said, the HELP program in particular, offered to all undergraduate students is extremely small in scope according to Director of Financial Aid, Sandra Filby.
“On average, we only have enough in the budget to help one or two students each year,” said Filby.
Filby stressed that the program is a last resort for undergraduate students, specifically those who are in their final years of college, so they won’t have to find themselves in similar a hole the following semester.
“We really want students to use all other alternatives before they turn to us,” said Filby. She said that students interested in getting financial help from Hofstra should speak with a student financial services counselor first before they contact her office.
The HELP program began in 2008, amidst the great recession, to help students struggling with financial loss and has quietly continued to help a handful of students annually at an interest of about five percent, similar to the Perkin’s loan program.
The director of financial aid added that the staff must be wary of the effects of loans, that could be as high as $15,000, have on students who are already strapped for cash. Filby and Hofstra do not want to put indebted students deeper into debt.
“We also have to come from an ethical standpoint. We have to ask ourselves if adding another financial burden onto a particular student is something that we would want to put that student in,” said Filby.
For the Hagedorn Fellowship Program, students follow a similar process as those who take out loans from banks or the federal government, according to Sean A. Fenelli, dean of the School of Education.
“It’s a loan program for undergraduate and graduate students interested in working in education. They have to commit to teach in high-needs school districts,” said Fenelli.
Fenelli gave some local examples of high-needs districts classified by New York State. These districts include Roosevelt, Wyndanch and Hempstead.
The Hagedorn Fellowship Program offers up to $5,000 a year for undergraduates for at most four years. Graduate students can receive similar benefits for as long as two years.
“Undergraduate students [who use the fellowship] would be classified as generalists. Graduate students would be placed into specific fields based on their degree. That could be STEM or [computer science], or another specific area,” said Fenelli.
The dean of the School of Education said that the program’s funds are finite.“The program will likely go on for another five to six years,” said Fenelli. He added that the program has, “gotten good feedback. The students take advantage. They do commit to high-needs districts and prepares them to teach in any district [thereafter].”
Some students on campus were not aware of Hofstra’s private loan offerings until they were asked about them.
“I was not aware of that,” said James Troici, freshman film and television production major who is not completely sure of what type of loans he has. He said that he was aware his parents helped him take out school loans. Although, he is sure his loans are not through Hofsfra as he was not aware of Hofstra’s private loan offerings.
“Even if [my parents and] I knew about private loans from Hofstra, we probably would still go through a bank,” said Troci.
Along with Troci, Koryna Hebert, senior urban ecology major was also unaware of Hofstra’s private loan offerings. “It was not necessarily promoted when I was going through financial aid,” said Hebert.
The senior said she took a few loans out during her freshman and sophomore years to pay for on-campus housing. Again like Troci, Hebert would feel more comfortable taking out a loan through a bank than through Hofstra if she was a freshman again.
“I don’t know if it makes that much of a difference. Loans are loans. A large sum of money that I owe to some institution is still a large sum of money,” said Hebert.
Ultimately, Filby and Fenelli both stressed that Hofstra’s private loan offerings are there to help students, not further the debt cycle.
“Student financial services is here for them and students should not feel ashamed for any reason if they need to approach us. Everything is confidential. We work hard to keep their privacy, but at the same time get [them] quality education,” said Filby.