Students can no longer ‘make money’ for attending college

First Time In College (FTIC) students with USF scholarships will no longer receive more money than their estimated cost of attendance, beginning in the fall 2010-11 semester.

After the state cut $28.6 million in funding from USF’s budget in the 2009-10 fiscal year, Billie Jo Hamilton, director of the Office of Financial Aid, said the University has limited scholarship money available.

“We want to assist as many students as possible,” Hamilton said. “We have more and more students who are considered scholarship-eligible, as our admission standards have increased.”

Previously, she said, students received more money than they needed to attend college, as calculated by the University.

“In order for us to fund as many students as possible, we don’t think its appropriate for students to make money – if you will – to go to college, when that money could be used to help other students,” Hamilton said.

If the amount of financial aid a student receives from federal, state and University scholarships exceeds the estimated cost of attendance, part of the University aid will be reduced, she said.

University scholarships include Presidential, Directors, Tradition of Excellence, Ventures, Scholars, History of Achievement, Scholastic Achievement, USF International Student, Green & Gold Talent and Green & Gold Honors.

When calculating the cost of attendance, Financial Aid adds full-time tuition, housing and meals, books and supplies, and other expenses. Travel and personal expenses such as laundry, toiletries, clothing and entertainment are included in the “other expenses” category.

The estimated cost of attendance for in-state undergraduate students living without their parents is $18,930 for the 2009-10 academic school year, according to the Financial Aid Web site. The estimated cost for in-state undergraduate students living with their parents is $14,550.

Out-of-state undergraduate students living without their parents have an estimated cost of attendance of $29,740 for the 2009-10 academic school year, while the estimated cost for out-of-state undergraduate students living with their parents is $25,360.

Financial Aid gives refund checks after the students’ tuition and books are paid for, but the Office does not track the students’ use of excess scholarship funds, said Associate Director of the Office of Financial Aid Steve Runion.

“It’s really the student’s responsibility. There is no monitoring of the dollars in the student’s bank account,” Runion said. “On the (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), there is a statement that the student signs that agrees to abide by the ‘code of conduct’, for lack of a better word, that they will use this money for education.”

Though the official Financial Aid report will not be finalized until October, Runion said the University dispersed almost $63 million in scholarships to 18,853 students for the 2008-09 award year.

Because the award year does not end until Sept. 30, Runion said these numbers are preliminary.

In 2007-08, the University dispersed $54 million in scholarships, he said.

Hamilton said the refunded money can be used for anything needed to support a student in a “modest way.”

“The general feeling is as long as you don’t give the students more than the institution determines it cost them (to attend college), there is an assumption that the student is going to use that money to pay those bills,” she said.

Student-earned private scholarships are not considered when calculating the amount of financial aid a student can receive, Hamilton said. Students with private scholarships can be awarded more than the cost of attendance, she said.

Private financial aid is any scholarship other than federal, state and institutional scholarships, Runion said. They include the Ford Foundation Fellowship, Lions Club and Sons of Italy scholarship, among many others, he said.

“We don’t think it’s fair if a student has ambition and gets out there and finds (scholarship) money on their own to pull ours back,” Hamilton said. “We want to encourage students to find their own scholarship money, so we don’t want to penalize them for doing that.”

Hamilton said it would have a “detrimental effect on recruitment,” if the University reduced the amount of university scholarship money committed to a student because that student received outside scholarships.

Runion said Financial Aid is working on next year’s terms and conditions that students will have to accept before they can receive scholarship funds.

This is the first year that students were able to accept scholarship terms and conditions online through the Online Access Student Information System (OASIS), Runion said.

A scholarship process improvement team, with representatives from all of the colleges, the USF Foundation, Admissions, Financial Aid, general counsel and the regional campuses, is reviewing the University’s scholarship system, Hamilton said.

The team is considering the development of a common scholarship application that would allow students to apply once and be considered for every scholarship, Runion said.

He said it would be at least a year before the application would be finalized.