Spurred by a new poll showing that many families who most need financial aid for college have the least information about how to get it, a major lender is launching a three-year, $15 million awareness campaign.
The effort is aimed at boosting what disadvantaged students know about college, and how to pay for it, according to the SLM Corp., the Reston, Va., lender commonly known as Sallie Mae. The company, which sponsored the poll and initiated the campaign, is the nation’s largest private student-lending organization.
Sixty percent of individuals polled from families making less than $50,000 a year said they needed more information on how to pay for college. By contrast, only 37 percent of those from households earning more than $75,000 felt similarly uninformed, the survey found.
Released last week, the survey report was based on interviews with 811 18- to 24-year-olds and with 1,090 parents of college-age adults, by Harris Interactive, a marketing and consulting company based in Rochester, N.Y.
Titled “Financial Aid: The Information Divide,” the report shows that minority families were especially bereft of college-aid information. Sixty-six percent of African-American parents and 62 percent of Hispanic parents said they needed more information on how to pay for college, compared with 44 percent of white parents.
On average, Hispanic families also receive financial-aid information two years later—when a prospective college-going child is 17 years old—than African-American and white households, the poll found.
Plans for Campaign
Charles Tamez, the director of development for the League of United Latin American Citizens, based in Washington, said he was discouraged by the poll’s results, but not surprised. Many Latino mothers, fathers, and grandparents, he said, do not know how to begin researching about college and how to pay for it—especially if their own schooling went no further than high school.
“There’s not a strong prior history of going to college,” said Mr. Tamez, whose organization promotes economic, political, and social improvement for Latinos. “A lot of parents simply don’t know how to ask the questions. ... If they were aware, they’d take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.”
Sallie Mae’s awareness plan, called “Project Access,” centers on presenting financial-aid information to student and parents through workshops around the country, toll-free telephone services, and a half-hour television program called “Paying for College,” which the company says will air three times this spring in at least seven U.S. television markets.
Sallie Mae also will award more than $2 million in additional scholarships to low-income and minority students, among other initiatives, its officials said in a statement.