Many students are angered with the 5.9% increase in UM tuition for the 2003-4 school year. Students who can barely afford the current price may struggle to remain at UM if the prices keep jumping.
“I think the rise in tuition is going to be difficult for students who are on need-based aid or scholarship,” Mike Johnston, president of Student Government, said. “I really want the University to be more proactive with students who need financial help. The increase could be a lot of money for students who are currently in financial trouble and could hinder their chances of remaining at the University.”
As a result of the new budget, less freshmen will be admitted and housing and meal costs will increase.
Minal Ahson, sophomore, feels the benefits outweigh the costs.
“I have heard it’s going to programs that will benefit students,” Ahson said. “I think everyone will be affected by it, but in the long run we will have better services and facilities.”
Most students doubt the direct benefits.
Amber Sprung, senior, sees the increase as ridiculous.
“It seems that the tuition increase isn’t going to the students,” Sprung said. “It’s going to the University. Most of what you see is cosmetic. How will students pay when it reaches $40,000 a year?”
Pam Ungvary and Karima Clayton, both sophomores, refer to UM as the “money guzzling university.”
“We’re not Ivy League,” Ungvary said. “I don’t see where the extra money is going to. The quality of education is decent, but it’s a bigger factor as to whether we can afford the University.”
David Lieberman, senior vice-president for Business and Finance, says that 30 percent of the money will still go back into scholarships, raising merit based scholarships such as the Isaac Bashevis Singer scholarship for full tuition and the Henry King Stanford Scholarship, for half tuition, to compensate for the increase.
“Our students are very dependent on federal and state financial aid as well as our own,” Lieberman said. “We maintain our commitments to students but if there were a sudden drop in state or federal funding in financial aid, it would have an impact on students.”
The total amount of financial aid at UM has increased from $187.4 million in 1997-1998 to $273.2 million for the 2002-2003 school year. On the national level, the College Board reported that student aid has increased to $90 billion, almost triple what it was a decade ago. But the number of student loans has also been increasing due to the increased number of students applying for financial aid and to college.
At UM, financial aid consists of 29 percent loans, 58 percent scholarships, 11 percent grants and 2 percent work-study.
James M. Bauer, director of the Office of Financial Assistance Services [OFAS] says that the office will face hardships but will try to accommodate students as much as possible.
“Students and families have had, and continue to have, programs that can help them fill the gaps,” Bauer said. “As always, we wish we had enough money to give every family what they think they need.”
Bauer says the amount a student can borrow is determined by a combination of the cost of attendance, the amount of aid the student has already qualified for and the credit rating of the student and co-signer.
According to Bauer, the parents of students classified as dependent by the federal aid definition have access to the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students [PLUS]. As long as the parent’s credit history is average (it doesn’t have to be great) they are eligible to borrow the entire difference between the financial aid the student has and the cost of attendance (a figure that includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses and transportation) for that year.
“Students whose parents have poor credit as documented by a denied application for a Parent Loan have expanded eligibility for the Stafford student loan,” Bauer said. “Students, whether dependent or not by the federal definition, can apply for a Signature Loan. This is not a federal loan, so the credit requirements are stricter, with most students needing a co-signer for the loan.”
According to Bauer, UM has recently made significant enhancements to the aid processing system and will continue to do so during the upcoming year.
“We also have to work exceptionally hard to make sure the financial aid system and the Student Accounts System communicate effectively,” Bauer continued. “It takes a tremendous effort on both sides to make the process work.”
However, despite all of the options available, many students say they will still feel the effects of the increase.
“It seems like they make it harder for students to come up the money for UM,” Ungvary said. “I have to work more hours and more shifts just to make up the difference.”
“It makes me sad that my mom has to work an extra shift so that I can come here,” Clayton said. “I love this school, but when you know you can go somewhere else for free, you are tempted to leave.”
Vanessa Pi, freshman, will not have to struggle but sees how the increase can be problematic for other students.
“Personally, I think tuition is so high already that I don’t see why they have to increase it,” Pi said. “It’s already unreasonable. I think there will be a large number of students affected; it can mean the difference of staying here and having to transfer out.”
David Weiner, freshman, who is not affected directly, believes that the increase will deter prospective students.
“I am not affected directly because I’m not paying, but my parents won’t be happy about it,” Weiner said. “Some students might think twice about coming to this school. It might deter prospective freshmen.”
But Edward M. Gillis, associate dean of Enrollment and director of Admission, doesn’t think the increase and cuts will affect the number of UM applicants.
According to Gillis, since 1997-1998 the number of applicants has increased from 13,651 to 18,367 for the 2002-2003 school year. Gillis said UM has already received more applicants for the upcoming year than last year.
“I don’t think [the number of applicants] would impact students, particularly in Florida, although it may impact the ability to enroll,” Gillis said.
In addition to the tuition increase, students worry about the state cuts, particularly for the Florida Bright Futures scholarships, a state fund that gives aid to Florida residents who graduate with high academic achievement.
In fact, Governor Jeb Bush’s new budget proposal will not fully reimburse community colleges or universities, placing the burden on the institutions, and ultimately on the students.
Bauer doubts that the cuts will affect the eligibility of current students for the scholarship.
“While it’s impossible to say just what the legislature will do, I think it is unlikely that cuts that are a result in changes in eligibility rules will affect current students,” Bauer said.
“The more likely scenario is that incoming students will have to meet new requirements to be eligible,” Bauer continued. “However, that is strictly conjecture on my part – how that will ultimately affect our students can’t be decided until we have an idea what is likely to happen.”
Ungvary says that the amount of money she receives from the scholarships does not help her much.
“It just pays for my books, but every little bit helps,” Ungvary said.
Ahson feels that the scholarships will affect prospective students’ decisions to come here.
“I think that will influence a lot of students to stay in state or not,” Ahson said. “There won’t be an incentive to stay in state.”
Both Luis Glaser, executive vice-president and provost for UM, and Pat Whitely, vice-president for student affairs, said that financial aid at UM will do everything they can to keep students at the University.
“For those with financial problems, we encourage anyone who has trouble to contact our financial aid office,” Glaser said. “Our philosophy is to keep students here.”
“We are going to do everything we can to provide financial support to students,” Whitely added.
Bauer says that UM will continue to change and improve for the benefit of students.
“We don’t have everything right yet, and we know there is nothing more frustrating to students and their families than issues related to money, but the staff of the office continues to be a catalyst for change where students are the ultimate beneficiaries,” Bauer said.
Marquita Bell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org