Financial aid boosted to $160 million

The University’s Board of Trustees approved $159 million in financial aid on for the coming fiscal year, a 6-percent increase from the amount allocated one year ago.

The $159 allocated for financial aid came as one portion of the $640 million operating and capital budgets approved by the Board of Trustees May 13 at a packed meeting in West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus.

The increase in available aid, considerably higher than the 2.9 percent increase in the tuition rate Vice Provost Steven Lerman pointed out, still marks a smaller increase in available aid to students than in recent years.

The boost for the coming year will allow at least 60 percent of students to receive assistance – consistent with previous years – in the next fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2011 to June 31, 2012.

Sixty percent of incoming freshmen have already requested aid, Lerman said.

The Board also voted to continue the University’s fixed-price tuition policy, which locks in incoming students’ tuition cost for ten semesters, and the institutional guarantee of financial aid, which guarantees that students’ yearly financial aid will not decrease from a porition of their initial year’s amount.

Although there is room for some change depending on fluctuations over the summer, depending on if families face predicaments requiring more need for aid, Lerman said, he does not expect a need to add significant funds to the pool like last October, when $2 million was added to available aid.

“There’s a period over the summer in which families can often appeal and ask for adjustments. Where appropriate, we often end up meeting those, such as if someone loses a job after they filed their financial aid request,” he said.

Lerman attributed October’s emergency increase in aid to “the extreme pressure of the recession,” an issue that he said he believes will probably not have as extreme of an effect on families this year.

The $159 million is guaranteed in the budget, but the amount is an estimated “projection,” Lerman said, because of factors including the lack of a full freshman class due to existence of the wait list. The financial aid package will be finalized going into September.

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