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Confusion stirs over financial aid

Some students have noticed a decrease in the financial aid they’re receiving for next year. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Thirty years ago, college students simply had to work part time over the summer to afford tuition. Now, many students must work at least 15 hours a week during the school year. Modern students are also expected to have a more rigorous schedule, attain a minimum of a 3.5 GPA to maintain scholarships, and be involved in multiple student organizations. Expectations have grown since their parents’ generation.

As these pressures increase, financial aid for students is decreasing for some individuals. Reduced financial aid, which USF Financial Aid Services claims is caused by changed deadlines and enforced regulations, puzzles many students who depend on it. 

“I have lost substantial funding,” said junior majoring in English education Brittany Schmiedal. “Last year, I had a need-based grant, a Pell grant and two student loans. The need-based and merit-based grants are completely gone, and the Pell was cut in half,” Schmiedal said.

“I unfortunately don’t have the option to work any extra, and I have bills, an apartment, and need to pay for gas.” 

She is concerned about making ends meet without having to drop classes without her financial aid.

There hasn’t been an institution-wide reduction for financial aid, according to Billie Jo Hamilton, assistant vice president of Enrollment Planning & Management and director of University Scholarships & Financial Aid Services. In fact, the amount allocated from federal Pell grants increased, and the state and institutional aid provided is the same.

Besides reduced financial aid, another major complaint among students is that many did not receive notification time about the change.

“I got an email that the 2017-18 financial aid information had been updated. I went into OASIS and saw that my funding was drastically decreased,” said freshman majoring in marketing Kyla Hermelyn.

Sophomore majoring in pre-finance, Alfredo Luis de Zayas echoed Hermelyn’s concerns. He was only notified his financial aid was available by email and was not expecting a dramatic change. 

“I feel betrayed by the university because I lost three grants after performing very well academically, and my parents' income had not changed in any significant way for the grants to be removed, as they were need-based,” Zayas said. 

Changes in student funds occur for a number of reasons, according to Hamilton. Explanations range from modifications in FAFSA data to exceeding the 135-credit-hour limit on particular grants.

Another cause for the change may be the new FAFSA application deadline, as it was pushed back from 1 March to 1 January, and the efficiency of awards granted. 

Hamilton also added that she saw an increase in the number of students who completed the application early. She credited the Financial Aid Services office for marketing the change to students.

“We had 19,000 continuing students that we awarded financial aid in mid-June. With this amount of students being so much more, all of our institutional aid was given out in the first half,” Hamilton said. 

In regard to helping students who are at risk of not affording their tuition, Hamilton said Financial Aid Services has done everything it can. 

Students should expect the new application and fund distribution process to remain the same for semesters to come. 

“If a student received less aid than in the past, I am willing to sit down with them and explain why that may have occurred. That is what we are here for,” Hamilton said.