Financial aid officials met with students and families last week to clarify the makeup of students’ financial aid packages after officials made adjustments for the virtual fall semester.
Jay Goff, the vice provost of enrollment and student success, said students’ financial aid packages were adjusted to reflect a change in housing costs, and students won’t be paying more than their out-of-pocket cost before the semester went virtual. Officials said students can schedule one-on-one phone consultations with an adviser in the financial aid office this week to determine the best financial decisions for them this semester.
In two hour-long WebEx meetings, officials fielded questions about financial aid adjustments, deferred admissions and leaves of absence. Officials scheduled the town halls after dozens of students posted concerns to Facebook stating their calculated tuition for the virtual fall semester was greater than their previous in-person cost.
Financial aid adjustments
Michelle Arcieri, the executive director for student financial assistance, said just more than 4,700 undergraduate aid packages were readjusted to reflect estimated costs of attendance after officials added a 10 percent tuition reduction for off-campus undergraduates and room and board costs were wiped from students’ bills.
Arcieri said students’ aid packages were adjusted for the full academic year, but officials will readjust aid packages if administrators pursue in-person learning in the spring.
She added that students who were planning to live on campus and now are living in off-campus apartments can submit the undergraduate change form and a copy of their lease to have their room and board costs reflected in their financial aid award.
“Although most need-based aid awards were adjusted due to students’ lower cost of attendance, all full-time undergraduate students who were planning to live in GW housing will see no increase in their direct out-of-pocket expenses,” Arcieri said.
Goff said the financial aid office did not come across many mistakes in students’ cost of attendance adjustments, but many students have requested accommodations because they are now living in off-campus housing instead of at home.
“When we looked back at the financial aid packages, we did not find a large number of what you’d consider mistakes,” Goff said. “What we found was that students had made changes in their living arrangements, so although the aid was calculated properly, we were assuming that the student was living at home.”
Brandon Hill, the executive vice president of the Student Association, said he plans to hold regular meetings with Goff to discuss any financial aid issues students are facing. He added that the SA is revamping its director of student advocacy position to serve as a liaison between students and officials on issues like financial aid.
“One of their main priorities will be supporting student-led initiatives, like the student advisory council that has been talked about recently and continuing some previous advocacy on front-facing aspects of the Office of Student Financial Assistance,” Hill said.
SA President Howard Brookins said he intends to work “extensively” with officials in the financial aid office to increase transparency between the office and students. He said he intends to create a student advisory council made up of students who have experienced problems with the office to identify the areas that need to be addressed.
Officials said in February they’re working to establish a financial aid advisory council, which was first announced during an overhaul of the office two years ago.
“I think there are many different areas to improve, and I look forward to working with all of the people on this call today in the future to make the process much better overall for all students,” he said.
Deferring or taking a leave of absence
Ben Toll, the dean of undergraduate admissions, said students have until the first day of classes Monday to decide if they want to defer their enrollment to the spring or next fall. He said students who choose to defer or take a leave of absence will have access to the same merit-based scholarships they would have used this year upon their return next year.
“As you may recall when you were offered that scholarship, it was actually offered to you for up to 10 semesters,” he said. “Not that we plan for this environment, but it’s designed so that if something happened and you had to take a semester off, that we didn’t make it harder for you to come back by you then losing your scholarship.”