Tag Archives: financial aid

(Photo courtesy of USF)

The Cost of a USF Education Will Grow Next Year

USF President the Reverend Stephen A. Privett, S.J. announced a tuition rate increase of 2.9% in an email to the USF community last Wednesday. The USF Board of Trustees approved a yearly tuition rate of $40,996 for full-time undergraduate students.

“USF is working very hard to keep tuition down,” said Provost Jennifer Turpin. “Every year we meet with the Student Senate to discuss tuition and review the next year’s tuition. We’ve had the lowest tuition increases in our history over the past three years.”
The cost of living at USF has also swelled to $4,475 (compared to last year’s $4,170) for a standard double room per semester and $2,185 (compared to last year’s $2,130) for the meal plan.

“It is frustrating,” said Annie Toffoli, a freshman nursing student, “but I hope the extra money goes to improvements in the dorms or to current students for more aid.”

Along with the tuition hike, the Board of Trustees also approved an increase in the amount of financial aid the university awards from its own funds. In the next academic year, USF will grant $69.5 million to eligible students. According to the email that announced the tuition rate increase, it will “help ease the burden of these increases.”
“It seems counterintuitive,” said Emily Meyers, a freshman media studies student. “Why not just keep [the rate] the same?”

Danielle Maingot, a sophomore communication studies and advertising student from the Bahamas, said that the tuition increase is especially frustrating for international students like herself that have to pay full tuition because they aren’t eligible for need-based financial aid.

“For some, it determines if they go home for Christmas or the summer,” Maingot added.

The USF Board of Trustees approved a yearly tuition rate of $40,996 for full-time undergraduate students.

USF graduate Rachel Khoo 14’, an international transfer student, said that even though she valued her Jesuit education, her international status limited access to most scholarships and put more stress on her parents, who were paying full-tuition for her to attend USF. “Coming from Malaysia, USF fees and living costs are incredibly high,” Khoo said.

Nick Wu, a sophomore entrepreneurship and accounting student from China said that he understood the tuition hike because professors need to be paid more to account for the increasing cost of living in San Francisco. “But I think USF should consider providing some scholarships or financial aid to international students because it feels kind of unfair for us that we can’t apply to any scholarships, even if we have really high academic grades.”

In regards to international students’ eligibility for scholarships, Turpin said: “international undergraduates whose sponsors are no longer able to  meet the commitment made on the Certification of Finances may be able eligible to apply for tuition assistance.”

This article was mentioned on SFist // Photo courtesy of USFCA on Flickr

Students Lobby against Cal Grant Cuts in the Capitol

Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to cut Cal Grants by 44 percent at private universities as part of his efforts to reduce California’s deficit, led ten USF students and 4 administrators to demand cuts be made somewhere else in Sacramento.
The USF group joined about 200 other people at a lobby day hosted March 7 by the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU). After hearing a series of talks providing tips on how to best persuade their representatives, students from over 50 different private universities gathered in small groups to share their stories to assembly members about what a cut to the Cal Grant would mean to them.

One student out of the 943 that would be affected by the cuts at USF (and present at the lobby day) was Paige del Rio. A transfer student and International Studies major, del Rio said state cuts would lead her to pursue her education elsewhere.

“I’ve put in applications already actually for the fall at SF State, UC Berkeley and UC Davis as a backup because it’s just not a reality for me if the funding is cut I can’t afford to be at USF,” she said.

Del Rio is currently taking 22 units between her courses at USF and City College to ensure she is eligible to transfer to other institutions.

Assembly member and Chair of Education Budget Committee Susan Bonilla spoke to students at the press conference held March 7 alluding to why cutting from higher education is a bad idea.

“The commitment that the state makes in you will not only double in its investment, it will five times over pay back the investment that the state of California makes in you as you enter the workforce,” Bonilla said.

A recipient of Cal Grant B during her education at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, Bonilla said she understood the frustration of private and public university students regarding cuts to higher education.

After about 70 students testified on behalf of the Cal Grant during a subcommittee hearing on the cuts during the lobby day, Bonilla and her committee voted against reductions to the state’s financial aid program.

Yet, the threat of Cal Grant cuts has not gone away.

In the attempt to reduce California’s deficit by more than $9 billion dollars, Brown also proposed increases to the GPA requirements for Cal Grant eligibility. Under his budget suggestion, the GPA requirement for Cal Grant A, which public and private students receive, would be raised from a 3.0 to a 3.25 while the GPA requirement for Cal Grant B, primarily awarded to students in city college, would increase from a 2.0 to a 2.75.

With a growing deficit and only a 20 percent control over the state’s budget, the governor and the assembly will without a doubt have to make difficult choices.
Cal Grant aid is expected to cost the state 1.5 billion this year, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. This is an increase of 85 percent from the past four years.

Yet, cuts to higher education may cause future problems for the state if students like del Rio choose to take a seat in the already crowded classrooms of public colleges.

Director of Financial Aid at Loyola Marymount Los Angeles, Catherine Graham, said, “I think public institutions are challenged with budget just like we are with the Cal Grant but I think with class sizes and restrictions in enrollment limits an the increases in cost in tuition these days it’s almost more cost effective for a student to go to a private institution like LMU or University of San Francisco rather than a public institution because of the equivalent cost with financial aid.”

It is not clear if cuts will be targeted toward private universities specifically after the subcommittee’s decision, but it is clear that students will not remain quiet if that is the case.

A sophomore Political Science student from the University of Southern California, Shamoya Washington said, “If there was cuts made I think that we would have to go back and continue to lobby for the legislators to either reverse the bill or to create other forms of revenue for the students because honestly I feel as though a lot of students attend California institutions and schools because they know that they’ll receive benefits from the government but if they’re not receiving benefits what is the reason for them to stay in the state?”

At USF, it is evident even non-Cal Grant recipients are willing to lobby against future cuts. Realizing that cuts to the Cal Grant, whichbenefit primarily low and middle income students, would potentially decrease diversity at USF led ASUSF president Lex Wochner to Sacramento along with other student government leaders from other universities several days before AICCU’s lobby day.

“I think the issue affects me personally as much as it affects all of us, meaning that I could potentially lose those friends and coworkers if this proposal went through, and further more I may have never had the opportunity to meet them in the first place,” Wochner said.

Potential Cuts to Cal Grant May Leave Students out of USF

USF students who receive the Cal Grant state financial aid might see a reduction in money they are awarded if Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to cut aid for the grant is passed.
On January 5, California’s governor introduced his proposal to reduce the deficit in the state budget for 2012-2013.
The proposal contains provisions that would reduce Cal Grant amount given to students at independent, non-profit California colleges and universities from the maximum of $9,708 to $5, 472, a decrease of 44 percent. The proposal would also raise the grade point average (GPA) requirements for both Cal Grant A and B. The GPA requirement for Cal Grant A, which students in private universities and state schools receive, would be raised from a 3.0 to a 3.25. The GPA requirement for Cal Grant B, primarily awarded to students in city college, would increase from a 2.0 to a 2.75.
According to a report released by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) on December 5, 2011, Cal Grant expenditures are expected to reach 1.5 billion this year—an increase of 85 percent from the past four years. As of 2011-12, there were about 244,000 Cal Grant recipients and an overall $1,506,000 in funding.

USF Students Depend on Cal Grant

Currently, 70 percent of USF students rely on some form of financial aid.
Hector Martinez, a first year Business Administration student said USF was one of his top college choices because of the generous financial aid package he was awarded.
“The Cal Grant is something that has been there for me this first year and something that I have relied on. If that was to be taken away then I would have to find new ways to try to get that money, and that would be in the way of looking for more scholarships or having to work. That would make it more difficult for me to reach my goals here at USF.”
Martinez, who aspires to be a company CEO, said he would try to continue his studies at USF despite the challenges that might present if his Cal Grant award were reduced or taken away.
“I have the will to keep struggling here no matter what it would take but it would be really difficult to continue without the help from the Cal Grant.”
If the Governor’s proposed budget were to pass, 943 current USF students would be affected, not including the new incoming students that would have been Cal Grant recipients.
In addition, if the proposal is approved, students attending private schools may no longer be able to afford a private education. If more of these students chose to attend public universities, overpopulation levels at UC’s and CSU’s would increase significantly. Subsequently, state expenses would increase because California would pay more to subsidize them. This counteracts the governor’s attempt to reduce the state deficit.
At USF, the university recently approved a tuition increase of 3.9 percent for the 2012-2013 academic year. However, the university has also said it will increase its efforts to help students finance their education at USF by providing $58 million of its own funds in financial assistance, an increase of 7.8 percent from last year.
Dean and Director of Enrollment and Financial Services Susan Murphy said she recognizes Cal Grant recipients come from low and middle income families, and that the aid they receive from the Cal Grant program makes it possible for them to attend USF and other California universities.
“If the state budget passes with any of the proposed Cal grant changes, our goal will be to keep Cal Grant recipients enrolled and on track to graduation,” Murphy said.
One of the ways USF plans to increase the amount of financial aid it awards is through alumni donations. The Interim Alumni Relations Director Cortés Saunders Storno said she is planning on contacting alumni who benefitted from Cal Grant assistance during their time at USF.
The university is also collaborating with the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) to bring students to a Save the Cal Grant rally at the state capital on Wednesday March 7.
Director of Financial Aid Services and Operations Norman Caito sent an e-mail to the USF community on February 14, urging students to contact state legislators and the governor to avoid cuts to the Cal Grant. He also encouraged current Cal Grant recipients to contact him, since they will have priority in the transportation USF will provide for the state rally.
Hoping Cal Grant recipients share their stories outside the governor’s office in Sacramento Caito said, “We have every intention of having our voices be heard, and impacting any decisions that are made regarding these cuts before they are even voted on.”
Possible revisions to the state budget are expected in May. The legislature will approve the final state budget in early June.
USF Students Advocate Cal Grant Assistance
Caito spoke to ASUSF senate two weeks ago, and is collaborating with ASUSF Senate adviser Greg Walcott and members of student government to increase awareness about this issue on campus.
Student of Color Representative Sascha Rosemond is participating in the committee working to address this issue. She said one of her major concerns is that cuts to the Cal Grant would decrease access students of color have to obtain a college education, especially at private universities.
“If people want to continue to see diverse campuses, and believe that everyone deserves the right to a private education, then they should support the cause,” Rosemond said.

ASUSF president Lex Wochner said he feels personally affected by the threat of Cal Grant cuts because he has friends that are Cal Grant recipients.
“Imagine losing your best friend because they had to move home and discontinue their education. Now imagine having never had the opportunity to meet them in the first place. This may sound dire, but this is the reality of what these cuts could potentially mean for us as students,” Wochner said.

To find your legislator’s contact information visit http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html
Cal Grant recipients interested in attending the Save the Cal Grant rally Wednesday March 7 should contact Norman Caito at caiton@usfca.edu to arrange transportation.

Keeping Abreast of, and Saving, (Your) Financial Aid

Though an American default was averted, the effects of the political brawl over the debt ceiling which played out before the semester began are continuing to be felt. The deal that was finally reached included a resolution for a special bipartisan committee to find $1.2 trillion in spending cuts that would be implemented over ten years.
So what do we care?
In college student terms, this situation threatens the full spectrum of federal financial aid.
Most USF students who fill out a Federal Application for Financial Aid or FAFSA, (and we are many) end up recipients of three principal forms of aid: Pell grants, Stafford loans, and Perkins loans.
On the chopping block now are the scale and even existence of these programs. Lawmakers on the committee are scambling to find sources to cut from to prevent another showdown over the debt ceiling in the very near future.
And some cuts have already been made, like the August elimination of subsidized Stafford loans for graduate students. And efforts to reduce the annual limit of federal Pell grants from $5,500 to $4,750, and possibly even further to $3,500, are being seriously debated as we write.
Our position on this issue is predictable: preserve federal college funding as much as possible This is especially necessary as state aid programs are being cut or are running dry. The National Bureau of Economic Research shows that federal funding, especially grants, increase the likelihood of students finishing college, which surprisingly enough, even our economic climate, pays for itself over time.
But our other position is two-pronged. If these venerable national institutions of higher education are to be prevented from being siphoned to oblivion, they require that we students be educated about what federal aid makes available to us, and that we pressure our lawmakers clearly, loudly, and without delay (the congressional slashing committee must present their debt-reduction plan on November 23rd.)
For you benefit, here’s the federal aid scheme in a nutshell. Pell grants are federal monies given to students based on demonstrated need. The maximum grant one can receive per academic year is currently $5,500.
A Perkins loan is college money backed by the U.S. government; it has a 5% interest rate and is repaid several months after gradation and is need-based. Undergraduates have a yearly maximum of $5,500.
Stafford loans, which, unlike Perkins, is government money, come in two varieties: unsubsidized and subsidized. Students who can demonstrate need won’t have the 6.8% interest accumulating on a subsidized loan while they are in school. Unsubsidized loans are given for those who can’t show need, and have interest accrue on their loans as they attend school; both are repaid months after graduation.
On October 24, Provost Jennifer Turpin forwarded an online petition via e-mail to the university community telling Congress spare student aid from deep cuts. The petition can be found at studentaidalliance.org. We urge all readers to sign this petition and to also contact their congressman and senator to reinforce this message. We’re not advocating this just for our own benefit; many future cohorts of college students will need this too.

Pell Grants Under Threat of Being Cut

In this age of fiscal uncertainty, few are immune from the government’s growing commitment to fiscal restraint. USF students could be hit next if Pell grants get cut. The federal debt-reduction committee tasked with locating $1.2 trillion in cuts and possible revenue increases to the federal budget over the next decade may shrink the government assistance program that has served as a vital source of financial aid for many at USF. The need based grants can total up to $5,550 per semester, and in assisting almost 30% of USF students with their tuition costs, it is the largest source of financial assistance for USF students.
To inform students of the potential danger to the program, Provost and Vice President of Academic affairs Jennifer Turpin sent an email out two weeks ago asking supporters to sign a petition to block any cuts to the program. The petition is being supported by lobbying organizations such as the Student Aid Alliance, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and 61 other higher education associations. The petition has drawn 48,661 supporters as of Saturday.
Asked what he thought of the possible cuts, USF Junior Raffi Bezdikian said it was unfortunate that the U.S. government would “rather drop bombs on people … than invest in our future by educating the public.”
It is unclear how much of an effect such efforts will have in swaying the committee in favor of a particular outcome. Various advocacy organizations have undertaken assiduous campaigns to influence the committee’s outcome with little success. From its conception, the committee’s proceedings have held behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny.
Legislators have attempted to exert their influence as well. Last month, Minnesota Representative John Kline made his case for cuts to Pell grants, which he described as “on a path to bankruptcy.” Kline then went on to back the Labor, Health and Human Services budget cutting bill passed by House Republicans.
That bill would decrease the Pell Grant eligibility period from 9 to 6 years. It would also eliminate eligibility for students who attend school part-time. The changes are projected to produce almost $3.6 billion in savings to the national budget.
In last year’s debt-ceiling budget agreement, the federal government promised $7 billion in additional appropriations for the program, an amount that according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid administrators still won’t make up for a $1.3 billion shortfall in 2012-13.
Democrats have long protected the program instituted under President Lyndon Johnson’s as part of his Great Society initiative, but their priority may now be focused on protecting costly entitlement programs that have come under increasing attack from Republicans.
Many have predicted that the negotiations will end in a deadlock, as most recent budget battles have. More than a few of the committee’s members are staunch advocates of their party’s most recalcitrant positions, making meaningful compromise unlikely. Any such deal would require substantial concessions on either side of the aisle.
Financial aid is available to USF students in other forms besides Pell grants, including school funded scholarships and grants from the state.
Even so, “student aid has already lost $30 billion paying down the deficit in prior Reconciliation bills and the Budget Control Act,” cited Ms. Turpin in her letter.
The fiscal solvency of the state is also in question, imperiling some of the state’s programs like Cal Grants.
If the super committee fails to find $1.2 trillion on cuts, automatic cuts of $600 billion to both defense and entitlement spending would kick in, possibly exempting the financial aid program.

New Work-Study Policy Seeks to Create More Job Opportunities

At the start of the fall semester, USF’s Federal Work Study Employment department changed the work-study policy. Students can have multiple jobs but are no longer permitted to apply more than one job towards their work-study award.
According to the Assistant Director of Financial Aid and Student Employment, Kristina Chang, the new policy will provide more job opportunities for students in need of a work-study job. Chang said, “[The Financial Aid Office] wants to be able to open opportunities out rather than selecting a very small group of students who have more opportunity than the rest of the group.”
Before this fall, students awarded with aid were allowed to have as many work-study jobs as possible. After doing research with other universities like the University of San Diego and Cal State Monterey Bay, both who do not allow students more than one work-study job, Financial Aid/Student Employment services switched to the new policy. USF was granted less work-study funding from the federal government for this academic year, another factor which lead to the policy change, said Chang.
Sophomore Nursing major, Vince Castelle said, “The new policy does not limit me on getting my jobs since I’ve only held one job per year.” Castelle works as an attendant at the Koret Health and Recreation Center. “I do think that being a work-study student did help me on getting my job, since I’ve heard employers would rather hire a work-study student than nonwork-study [student].”
Departments prefer hiring work-study students due to the 70% wage subsidy provided by the federal government. Wages of non work-study students are completely covered by their respective departments. Aid is allotted to students who file FAFSA before the deadline and demonstrate financial need, said Chang. “It’s less money out of the school’s pocket and department funding.” Additionally, work-study students have priority during most hiring processes.
As an employee of the Student Employment offices, senior Biology major Cydrienne Llamas is on the receiving end of hearing objections towards the new policies. “I can see both sides of why I’d want to use federal work-study for a second job, but at the same time you have to be fair to those who still need to find jobs,” she said. “I think [the new policy] is a good thing. It allows more students to have jobs on campus.”
Prior to the new policy, Chang recalls receiving many students’ complaints about a shortage of job opportunities. “It’s unfair to them that they can’t find a job, yet we have students with multiple jobs and use federal funding. All students should have the opportunity to have a job…spread the wealth,” she said.
“The new policy is fair. If I could have two jobs, it would help out a lot with everything, but the [job] I have right now is very good and they pay very well, so I’m not really complaining,” said junior Adam Molina. Molina works as a Student Leadership and Engagement (SLE) Peer Advisor.
While some students are seemingly indifferent towards the change, Senior Lee Westrick contends that the new policy has its drawbacks. As a History department research assistant, Westrick’s hours vary between six and ten hours a week. “I think [the old policy] would’ve worked out for more students just because I understand people were bumping up on the 20 hour [per week] max but at the same time, there were people who weren’t—like me working ten hours a week,” said Westrick. “That’s not enough to pay rent.”
Although Chang reports that the new policy has opened up multiple job opportunities, Westrick’s biggest concern is job security. “Uncertainty is the biggest concern for students in my position,” she said. “We’re living in San Francisco and a lot of us are financially independent. No matter what you do, you’re going to cast people out. It’s a hard situation to be in, but for some of us, as selfish as it sounds, we got to pay bills. It’s a competition.”