Tuition increase necessitates greater financial aid for incoming first years

Will students go into debt because of recent economic crisii?More of Southwestern’s incoming class has applied for financial aid than the classes before it. Because of this and increases in tuitions, Southwestern had increased the quantity and value of scholarships. James Gaeta, Southwestern’s director of financial aid, said that he will not know how many people will be accepting these until after the students’ May 1 deadline.

“The university has made a commitment to increase the amount of funding available for helping out students,” Gaeta said. “As tuition increases, we do see an increase in the amount of dollars allocated for student assistance – grants and scholarship – through the university.”

Tom Oliver, Southwestern’s vice president of enrollment services, said that the incoming class will be about 38% men, a number that hoovers around what other recent classes have been. Efforts to increase the number of men have been made, such as men’s lacrosse has been made a varsity sport and making most of the 150,000 potential students that it recruits men. The current student body as a whole is currently 39 percent men. and 61 percent women.

“We’ve had one year in the five (that he has worked at Southwestern) where we dropped to the thirty-sixth percent,” Oliver said on incoming classes.

In addition to aid given by the university, which Gaeta said adds up to around $12 million, many students also receive government and private scholarships. He estimated that, currently, 200 current SU students receive Pell grants of $400-$500 a piece, 400 students receive Tutition Equilization Grants for about $3300 (the largest form of state aid for students).

Gaeta mentioned that he has been monitoring major banks pulling out of federally-sponsored lending programs would hurt incoming students ability to obtain federal loans like the Stafford loan that about half of SU students receive. He says that Southwestern has a plan if situation arises.

“If it looks like our major lenders are pulling out, and that if there could be an issue with our students getting loans, we are prepared to participate in the direct loan program,” Gaeta said, referencing the direct loan program where the government directly lends money to students, rather than banks lending money that is backed by the federal government.

Rising tuition costs has not only led to an increase in first-years trying to get financial aid, it has also stressed the pockets of current students. Gaeta said that SU is committed to allowing students to continue their education here.

“We hate to lose a student, so we’re going to work to keep them here – realizing our limitations.”

Tuition prices increase every year, but an especially turbulent economy has caused an especially high spike in next year’s tuition.

“The endowment has dropped around 75 million just in the last nine-to-twelve months,” President Jake Schrum said at a town hall meeting earlier this semester

Schrum mentioned that it is the endowment as well as gifts that largely make up the operating budget that is not covered by students’ tuition.

“When I first came to Southwestern, the operating budget of Southwestern was helped to the tune of 18 million dollars a year coming into the operating budget, in the next couple of years, we are counting on about $12 million,” Schrum said. “So there are only a few things that we can do when that (the decrease) happens, and one of those things is tuition increases.”

This problem has been compounded by the fact that the budget for on-campus jobs was frozen two years ago, remaining the same even as minimum wage increased.

“The decision was made that the student budget would remain flat,” Gaeta said.

To stay within this budget, the number of hours for student workers has been reduced, meaning that students take-home pay is the same as it was before the increase in minimum wage. There have also been several student-worker positions cut despite the increased demand for them.

Southwestern says that it is committed to making the university affordable, with 40 percent of its revenue being used for financial aid programs.

“We don’t want to pull back on financial aid, because that would surely mean a decrease in students, and we don’t want that,” Oliver said.

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