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The decision to come to UM: the big role of financial aid

Students such as Josh Goad wouldn’t even have considered the University of Miami it weren’t for the scholarships he received.

Goad faced a tough decision between enrolling at a community college or a four-year institution such as UM, tuition for which costs about $30,000 a year. He said Miami-Dade College would have been a better choice based on its inexpensive tuition – estimated by College Board to cost $2,068 year for this year for in-state students and $6,863 for those from out-of-state.

Diego Valdes completed 19 credits in one semester at MDC and then transferred to UM.

“I should have done at least a year [at MDC],” Valdes said.

He would have preferred the cost of MDC since his parents assist with about 50 percent of his tuition as an international student from Mexico.

The Florida Department of Education reported about 129,000 high school graduates for the 2004-2005 school year who, like Goad and Valdes, find themselves at a crossroads between enrolling at a two-year institution and heading straight for a four-year university after graduation.

“It’s better to start off at a community college from a purely financial point of view,” said David Peterson, director of the office of financial assistance at UM.

Students increasingly rely on federal loan programs to cover some of the cost of tuition. For the 2005-2006 school year, the amount of money borrowed by UM’s students totaled up to about $94 million.

Peterson said the lump sum a student borrows from federal loans depends on the student’s year of enrollment and not the cost of attendance. This is done by the U.S. Department of Education to be efficient by offering the most loans while at the same time preventing borrower defaults.

As reported in The Washington Post, a research firm called Student Monitor, which focuses on the national college market, averaged the amount of student loan debt to be about $26,000. Despite equally distributed loans, a more expensive tuition ultimately requires more funding.

If the funding comes from the student’s pocket, then a well-paying job is in order.

Peterson worked in the career services department of a community college where he felt like was he seen as second-class because employers tend to overlook or not give as much consideration to a community college graduate.

“Private universities are seen as prestigious,” Peterson said.

He suggests that attaining a Bachelors or Masters degree from a private university has more of an impact on a student’s resume because “perception is reality.”

Kathleen Garcia, an advising officer at MDC, believes there are two sides to the value of a degree.

“I think it’s relative to the position [for which]you are applying,” she said. “It’s whoever makes that first impression that walks in with confidence.”

Garcia shared examples of students she has advised who transferred to Florida International University from MDC. She mentioned one of the students majoring in English struggled to find a job while the one who majored in accounting was employed before graduation.

As education appreciates, more students seek higher education, making seat availability another factor.

“Freshmen apply to a number of schools while transfers usually seek us out applying to maybe two other schools,” said Nikki Chun, a UM admissions officer.

She added that the applications from both types of students are separated. In the 2006-2007 school year, 19,000 freshmen students applied and only 44 percent of those were admitted into UM. About 32,000 transfer students applied last year and only 600 were admitted to UM.

Looking at the number of transfer students pursuing Bachelor’s degrees, Chun said that classes are becoming more competitive.

Chun said that after graduating Kemehameha High School in Oaho, Hawaii, she was not aware of the concept of transferring until she began UM. Witnessing the number of competitive applicants for UM and the high cost of tuition have made her an advocate for transferring, she said.

Although admission may seem scarce at prestigious universities, Florida legislators passed State Board of Education Rule 6A-10.024(19), which ensures admission into upper-level state universities for any student that attains an Associate in Arts degree at any community college in Florida. Thus, enrollment is not as competitive for the institutions under the articulation agreement.

Walyce Almeida may be contacted at w.almeida@umiami.edu.

September 29, 2006

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.