Frenk focuses on education, students during town hall

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University of Miami President Julio Frenk announced on Wednesday that increasing endowment and meeting 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need of students will be the top priority of his new capital campaign, expected to begin between late 2017 and early 2018.

During his third town hall meeting this semester in the Roadmap to Our New Century series, Frenk discussed his commitment to providing students with affordable education, in hopes that it will allow students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to attend the university.

The university gives out primarily merit-based aid, meaning any student with a record of high achievement receives financial assistance, even if he or she can afford to attend the university without it. Frenk said he wants UM to move away from merit-based aid and toward need-based financial aid so admitted students with financial constraints,can attend and benefit from going to a selective university.

“Your economic circumstance should not be a barrier for determining that you do not come to the University of Miami,” he said.

Frenk said the university has already taken steps toward providing financial assistance to students with demonstrated need, but more has to be done.

The ambitious goal of meeting 100 percent of students’ financial need is important to Frenk because, along with giving bright, underprivileged students a chance at a top-50 education, it will open new doors for the continued diversification of the university.

“They don’t even bother applying because they figure they will not be able to afford an education here,” Frenk said.

Junior Aaron Gluck, who did not attend the town hall but has been following Frenk’s initatives, said the goal to help students with different socioeconomic backgrounds is the right thing to do.

“People that have the standards to attend the university should be able to,” Gluck said. “It shouldn’t be based on whether they can pay or not.”

Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas LeBlanc and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely joined Frenk at the meeting held in the Shalala Student Center. Whitely  served as moderator while LeBlanc helped answer questions alongside Frenk.

LeBlanc chimed in to reference UM’s rank as the No. 11 institution for students graduating with the least amount of debt. In the 2017 U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings that came out on Sept. 12, UM went up seven ranks since last year, to No. 44.

LeBlanc said part of the reason was that as of a few years ago, the university began requiring students to fill out the College Board CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. This application allows the university to get a more accurate representation of financial need, therefore allowing students to not only receive financial aid from the federal government but also from UM.

“We’ve taken the savings from people who didn’t have true need; we put it back into the upper classes so the graduating class had less student debt,” said LeBlanc. “We will continue to do that gradually and hopefully, in 10 years, we will be able to meet the full need of students.”

The town hall, the third of seven this semester, was one of the last opportunities to suggest feedback on the Roadmap initiatives before they are voted on by the Board of Trustees in October.

The initial process for the construction of the Roadmap began a year ago when Frenk held his first town hall as the newly-appointed president. During the town hall, he announced the launch of his 100 Days of Listening campaign, in which he would listen to suggestions from the UM community on how to improve the university as it prepares for its centennial.

After those 100 days, Frenk created eight groups of four people, including faculty, staff and students, to draft eight initiatives. The drafts were sent out to the UM community via email over the summer.

Frenk’s third town hall meeting was focused on education and students with the central focus being on four Roadmap Initiatives: Hemispheric University Consortium, Culture of Belonging, Access to Excellence and Educational Innovation.

To submit feedback on the Roadmap initiatives, visit miami.edu/roadmap, or email umroadmap@miami.edu. You can also tweet your suggestions by using the hashtag #UMRoadmap.

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