Students seeking aid falls despite economy

The number of students appealing for increased financial aid dropped again this fall after peaking at an all-time high in 2009.

Associate Vice President for Financial Assistance Dan Small said about 250 students have appealed their aid so far this year and predicted that the final numbers will be close to pre-economic crisis levels. Last year, about 650 students appealed and more than 900 appealed in 2009.

“We have not seen as many families who are experiencing drastic changes in their financial circumstances,” Small said.

The Board of Trustees allocated $159 million to financial aid this fiscal year, a 6-percent increase from the 2010-2011 allocation.

The Office of Financial Aid will continue awarding additional aid until the entire allocation has been spent, although exact figures are not available, Small said.

Federal and private grants and loans increased nationally after seeing dips in 2009, mirroring shrinking appeals at the University, according to a report by College Board.

He said the drop in appeals may indicate that fewer families are being negatively affected by the economy but acknowledged that many are still struggling.

“With this economy, you never know if someone’s going to throw a curve at us,” Small said.

Factors including a divorce, a death in the family and a 20-percent reduction in income or more may change a student’s need, Small said.

Nearly 47 percent of students receive need-based aid, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Other appeals come from students who submitted forms after the May 1 deadline. If students submit need-based forms after the University has allocated the majority of aid funds, there is a much smaller pool from which to draw student awards, although the University may offer additional assistance as available funds allow.

Fewer than 2 percent of applicants were late, Small said.

This year, the University worked to decrease the number of late forms by increasing digital communications.

“The majority of students were able to get their stuff to us a lot earlier and that allowed us to act earlier,” Small said.

Small projects that overall financial aid has gone up compared to recent years, although exact figures for average aid packages vary because of the University’s fixed tuition system.

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