Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Several schools increase financial aid packages

AU considers short and long term plans

As a result of the stock market downturn, three universities have announced hefty increases in their financial aid packages, however, AU is not among those to change procedure.

Texas A&M University, Boston University and Vanderbilt University will increase the aid that most students receive.

At least 53 universities have pledged to make education affordable for low-income students, according to U.S. News and World Report.

At this time, AU is not among these schools, but will work individually with students who are struggling financially. AU will stay committed to helping families in need, according to Shirleyne McDonald, associate director for the Office of Financial Aid.

"AU has a long standing commitment to assisting students and families in defraying their educational expenses," she said. "As part of this continued commitment, Dr. Kerwin and the university community are working together to devise short and long term strategies to help families weather the current economic climate and to address affordability concerns."

Claudia Nunez, a freshman in the School of International Service, said she likes the other universities' new financial plans and believes AU should start a similar program to help those who are suffering financially.

"If other schools are doing this, AU should get on track," she said. "AU is not cheap."

Texas A&M announced it would give free tuition to any student whose family earns less than $60,000 and who maintains a B- average in school. The university plans to aid more than 5,000 students, costing a total of $3 million.

Texas A&M estimates that the new Aggie Assurance scholarships will cost the school an additional $300,000 this year, according to U.S.News and World Report.

Misty Wingenbach, a financial aid advisor at Texas A&M, said the Aggie Assurance was created to allow low-income Texas resident students greater access to an education at a four-year institution that they might not otherwise be able to afford.

The funding for the Aggie Assurance is coming from institutional funds, according to Wingenbach. However, the Texas state legislature requires a portion of all tuition increases be set aside for financial aid programs. Aggie Assurance is Texas A&M's way of implementing that requirement to help offset the cost of higher education for their students, according to Wingenbach.

Vanderbilt announced that it would replace its need-based loans with grants, starting next year, according to U.S.News. This would cost the school $15 million a year and affect half of all of its 6,500 undergraduates.

They are doing this because they believe that when barriers to a Vanderbilt education can be reduced or eliminated, every student benefits from a learning community that includes talented, qualified individuals from all backgrounds, according to Vanderbilt's Web site.

Vanderbilt said it believes the new financial aid plan will attract the nation's best students, no matter how much their parents earn, according to U.S.News.

Boston University promises to give scholarships to meet the full need of graduates from Boston public schools, according to U.S. News. Financial aid packages will not include loans. BU said it will help between 20 and 80 needy students next year.

To pay for the new financial aid plan, BU changed a merit scholarship program, froze new hiring and stopped construction. BU has also had to freeze new hiring and construction.

At least 53 other schools have developed financial aid policies that limit of eliminate student loans, making the cost of attendance lower for students, according to U.S. News.

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