Financial aid distribution climbs more than $130M

The tuition hike last year may have been discouraging news to those already’banking on financial aid, but’the number of students receiving help has increased.

This semester, University Scholarships and Financial Aid Services (USFAS) has shelled out more than $137 million, according to a report, a’28 percent increase from the previous year when more than’$107 million was given.

Billie Jo Hamilton, the director of USFAS, said the’economic conditions could be attributed to the increasing need for student loans. More students were eligible for loans this school year as opposed to last year, she said.

In fall 2009, state’legislation increased tuition by 7 percent and allowed state universities to raise it another 8 percent – a 15 percent increase.

Thirty percent of the additional money brought in from the tuition increase was put aside to fund need-based USF grants, Hamilton said.

The number of grants USF awards each academic year increased 9 percent since fall of 2008, Hamilton said. The amount of scholarships issued rose 15 percent.

USF student Eric Shroble, a junior majoring in’interdisciplinary social sciences, relies on loans to pay tuition.

And the tuition increase’didn’t help.

‘This semester is the first time where I have had to owe money,’ Shroble said. ‘I’owe $300.’

Hamilton said about’77 percent of students receive some form of financial aid. About 52 percent of’undergraduate students receive federal loans – an increase of 25 percent since fall 2008.

USF student Shannon Landers said she has felt the sting of higher tuition.

Landers, a graduate student majoring in public health, has few classes but depends on loans to pay tuition;’graduate courses cost even more than undergraduate.

‘I’m taking three classes and they cost me around’$2,000,’ Landers said after making sure her loans were being disbursed correctly at the Financial Aid office.

In fall 2008, USF distributed $86 million in financial aid, a 47 percent decrease compared to’$127 million last semester.

The recurring issue with financial aid is that there’s never enough money,’Hamilton said.

‘For those students who are searching for financial aid,’it is imperative that they meet the March 1 deadline,’she said.

That deadline is for students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is found online at fafsa.ed.gov.

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