One of the newest additions to Innovation Park, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is one of the country’s premier student aid organizations. Offering loan servicing, aid processing, and other types of assistance for college students, PHEAA operates beyond the state level as American Education Services and FedLoan Servicing nationwide. Created in 1963, PHEAA was founded by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and today provides its services to millions of students attending thousands of schools.
Headquartered out of Harrisburg and with five total branches around Pennsylvania (other locations include Pittsburgh, Delaware County, and Mechanicsburg), State College was home to the very first PHEAA satellite call center, opening in 2006. At that time, the offices were located right across from Penn State’s campus, inside the renovated movie theater at 116 West College Ave. With room for 88 professionals to work within the building, this address served PHEAA well at the time.
However, after approximately a decade at the location, PHEAA has experienced substantial growth, increasing its needs for expanded workspace and new facilities. Currently, the organization has almost 150 employees in State College alone, with more than 3,500 employees across the state. The search then began for a new, accommodating location, perfectly accessible for regional employees, college students, and prospective beneficiaries. After finding its home at Innovation Park, PHEAA left its College Avenue location in October of last year.
|PHEAA loan counselors enjoy Innovation Park’s prime location and accessibility.|
The response to the new location from both employees and visiting students alike has been positive. Keith New, director of public relations and communications for PHEAA and American Education Services, says the employees love that the Innovation Park location offers ample free parking, a daycare within the park itself, and convenient access to bike trails. Transportation is additionally a breeze, as CATA bus service runs to and from University Park and the surrounding area every 15 minutes, and Innovation Park offers direct access to both the I-99 interchange and SR-322.
The majority of the employees working at the PHEAA Innovation Park location are loan counselors. These professionals assist student loan borrowers in both overseeing their student loan accounts and making payments, so that they successfully manage their college debts in an efficient manner.
This work contributes to PHEAA’s overall mission—to create higher education affordability for both students and their families in Pennsylvania. Business earnings go to furthering this aim also, with funds paying first for operating costs, and then the administration of the Pennsylvania State Grant and state-funded student aid programs. As a result of PHEAA’s work, taxpayers are saved millions of dollars annually.
Just during the last full academic year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a $266-million appropriation for the State Grant program, with the PHEAA Board of Directors designating $125 million of its earnings to benefit the program as well. Because of this, students were able to receive a maximum State Grant award of $4,340. Other assistance provided by PHEAA went to the Distance Education Pilot Program, to the tune of $10 million, and also to the Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program, with a gift of $6 million. All of this PHEAA generosity has amounted to approximately $141 million in direct funding for student aid programs in 2015–16, and more than half a billion dollars since 2011.
In addition to monetary assistance, PHEAA also supports outreach initiatives targeting smart student spending and the avoidance of unnecessary student loans. PHEAA provides more than a dozen Higher Education Access Partners across the state, who provide hands-on, informative, and educational services to students and their families, educators and community partners. The organization similarly offers interactive, online resources, such as the Pennsylvania Student Aid Guide, which provides information on the various forms of student aid, eligibility, timelines, and career planning, among other helpful topics.
From the work being performed right here in State College, to the assistance provided by PHEAA on the national stage, all of it goes back to reaching the key goal of helping students receive the education they deserve, at an affordable cost that works for their short- and long-term plans.