Financial Aid Professional Seeks to Broadcast Data on Student Loans

By Joelle Fredman, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Ellaine Tsz Ying Ho has a background in data analytics and a passion for student financial aid — a combination that led her to create an online dashboard earlier this year to track the landscape of student loans over the past decade. And now she is ready to broadcast her work.

Ho, who has served as the assistant director of financial aid at Teachers College, Columbia University for the past four years, received questions over the years from students and university officials about the loan landscape at Teachers College. While the website is not affiliated with the university, she took on this personal project in her free time after completing a data analytics bootcamp.

“There’s a lot of noise from different communities and different viewpoints on the political end and education research side about how the student debt landscape has changed over the past 10 years,” Ho said. “I thought it would be a good idea to aggregate all of the data that's publicly available and do a visualization dashboard to see what has changed over the past 10 years.”

Ho’s website includes general information — taken from the Office of Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) Data Center — about what types of institutions participate in the federal student loan program and how that has changed between 2010 and 2019, and also allows students to view student loan data at individual colleges and universities of all types across the country.

Ho said one of most interesting things she has learned over the course of the two months it took her to create the dashboard is that there are great disparities within undergraduate and graduate student borrowing. Specifically, Ho said, while the amount of loans disbursed to undergraduates has decreased over the past decade, that figure has increased for graduate students. 

“While undergraduate loan debt is talked about very consistently across the board, what people should also pay attention to is [borrowing] on the graduate level,” she explained.

Ho said she is always looking for ways to improve her dashboard, and plans to add more data points in the near future. 

“My goal is to really help people in the financial aid community, or people who are interested in getting to know what student loans look like,” Ho said. “My hope is also that if students are entering school they can use this as a resource.” 


Publication Date: 3/3/2020

Aesha E | 3/3/2020 10:25:45 AM

Neat! I'm hoping to look at it more in depth later. I wish I had the skills to create something like this. Well done!

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