At their February, 2015 meeting, Wyoming Catholic’s Board of Directors unanimously decided to forgo participation in the Federal Student Loan and Grant Programs (known colloquially as Title IV). As a young institution, Wyoming Catholic College would surely have been able to use these funds to solidify its current financial position, and to help with additional educational projects and programs.
One of the key issues discussed by the Board’s task force when measuring the risks of accepting Title IV funds involved concerns about the impact federal regulation might have on the College’s hiring and admissions practices. As a faithful Catholic institution, the College wishes to preserve its institutional integrity in such practices—a stance that could be severely compromised by the regulatory power which accompanies the acceptance of federal funds.
The most immediate, most significant benefit to the College if we had decided to accept Title IV funding at that time would have come in the form of government-backed student loans. The challenge we faced is one that remains to this day: the government has created a false student loan market, providing loans at a much lower interest rate than can be matched by any private financial institution, bank, or credit union. So, in an attempt to make our education truly affordable to our students while simultaneously maintaining our institutional autonomy, we began providing them with loans ourselves, offering them a comparable interest rate to what they would receive from the federal government. That structure created a heavy financial burden for the College, of course, but we were unwilling to punish our students for our principled stand.
The Rest of the Story
In December, 2019, after years of searching for a long-term, sustainable solution, we forged a partnership with Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, which meant that we were no longer ‘self-funding’ our student loan program. From the Fall of 2020 onwards, our students have received their loans directly through Notre Dame FCU.
Although our students and graduates have been extraordinarily faithful in paying off their loans—and benefactors have stepped up to help bridge the gap—the fact remains that the College was educating its students without being paid until they graduated and repaid their loans, sometimes years later. This agreement, however, changed everything. “With the support of our students and their families and with the help of Notre Dame Federal Credit Union,” said Dr. Arbery, “we will receive the same payment for our services that our peers receive, and on terms very similar to those provided by the government’s subsidized programs. Yet these payments will be possible without the strings and the federal overreach that so dangerously accompany those funds.”
“Since we cap our students’ debt at $20,000,” Dr. Arbery added, “there is still a significant difference between what our students—now with the help of Notre Dame FCU—can afford to pay and what it actually costs to keep the College fully funded. Because of that funding discrepancy, this new arrangement won’t eliminate a number of our financial challenges. We will always rely (gratefully) on the generosity of our benefactors in order to provide this extraordinary education. But this is truly a watershed moment for us, and our agreement with Notre Dame Federal Credit Union gives us the financial health and security we need to carve out a better future for our students.”