University need-based aid rising

By Emily Sokolik

Sara Hernandez began learning about federal grants and student loans four years ago while she was in the process of applying to college.

“You find out that you love grants,” said Hernandez, senior in AHS. “(But) loans are not something you feel relaxed about.”

Without the help of financial aid, Hernandez’s family would not be able to cover the cost of tuition.

While the University was able to award almost $15 million in scholarships to needy students in 2005-06, other schools around the country are devoting increasing amounts of money to higher-income students, according to a recent report released by The Education Trust, a Washington-based research firm that studies trends in education.

The report found that college grants for students with family incomes greater than $100,000 increased at a faster rate than grants to students with family incomes of less than $20,000.

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In Georgia, high school seniors graduating with a 3.0 grade point average or higher are eligible for a full college scholarship. The Georgia HOPE College Scholarship Program was created as an incentive for residents to attend in-state colleges and universities.

Because the HOPE Scholarship is merit-based, the recipients tend to come from higher-income families, said Sue Kleemann, director of research at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

“Generally grades and income correlate,” Kleemann said.

At the University, however, an opposite trend has emerged, according to data from the Office of Financial Aid.

In 2005-06, the University awarded more than $14.8 million for need-based scholarships and $10.5 million for merit-based scholarships. Compare this to the 2001-02 school year, when $4.8 million was awarded in need-based scholarships and $9.5 million in merit-based scholarships.

Need-based scholarships were increased to make up for dwindling financial aid contributions from the state, said Robert Andersen, senior associate director of financial aid at the University.

While the University is providing more aid for needy students, the total amount of unfulfilled need is steadily increasing because state and federal grants are covering a smaller share of the total costs, as tuition at the University rises.

“Overall, we’ve addressed what we can, and so far, the change is slow,” said Andersen. “We’re always trying to get new money.”

Illinois has several unique financial aid programs, like the Monetary Award Program and the Pell Grant, which are not in all states, Kleemann said. Though funding from these programs has not kept up with inflation, they do provide Illinois students with grant money that is unavailable elsewhere in America’s colleges and universities, she added.