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CEDAR FALLS – After a decade of helping students increase their financial literacy and lower their levels of student-loan debt, the University of Northern Iowa has been recognized as having one of the lowest student-indebtedness averages in the nation.

The recognition, combined with the announcement of substantial new scholarships for incoming students, is positioning UNI as one of the most accessible higher-education institutions in the region, school officials said.

In its fourth annual “Student Loan Debt by School by State” report, LendEDU, an online marketplace that helps consumers learn about and compare a wide range of financial products included UNI in the top 10% of lowest student-debt figures in the country. LendEDU’s analysis included nearly 1,000 four-year public and private higher education institutions across the United States.

In 2018, UNI students graduated with the second-lowest debt in the state, marking more than a decade of indebtedness decreases that highlight the institution’s continual efforts to provide an accessible, high-quality education.

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In order to combat rising student debt, the university first introduced proactive financial literacy programming for students in the 2009-10 academic year, which included a requirement for loan counseling. These changes started a campus-wide trend of cutting debt, resulting in a 14% decrease in average loan debt over the past 10 years. In 2019, UNI’s average student indebtedness was $23,671 — the lowest level since 2005-06.

Also, the university is announcing the establishment of new scholarships for incoming resident and non-resident students beginning in the 2020-21 academic year.

All Iowa residents applying to UNI will be eligible for the new Panther Impact Award, which will award between $1,000 and $3,500 annually based on standardized test scores and GPA. Students from traditionally underrepresented populations also will qualify for the “Unifying Through Excellence and Diversity” (UNI-TED) Scholarship, which provides between $1,000 and $2,000 per year based on academic performance.

Additionally, newly graduated non-resident high school students will now receive an automatic $5,000 award upon admission through the new UNI Advantage program. These out-of-state students can also receive an additional $1,000 or $2,000 through the award if they meet academic benchmarks. Additional legacy scholarships are available for non-resident students whose parent, grandparent or sibling graduated from UNI — or if they have a sibling currently enrolled.

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