Decreased state funding leads to fewer grants, more worries

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UT lost 19 percent of its state and federal grants and scholarships for the next academic year, which means students will see much less money in their financial aid packages when the Office of Student Financial Services begins distributing them July 1.

“I am sorry to say there won’t be much grant funding to go around,” said Financial Services Director Tom Melecki.

Federally funded scholarships including Academic Competitiveness Grants, SMART Grant, LEAP Grant and SLEAP Grant will not be receiving any funds for 2011-12, Melecki said. State funding for TEXAS Grants is also reduced by $11 million, and the Engineering Scholarship Program will not be funded next year.

Before the legislative session ended, the UT administration predicted there wouldn’t be any TEXAS Grant money to offer incoming eligible freshmen, Melecki said. The senate increased the number of state dollars for TEXAS Grants in the special session, and now the University will award roughly 1,100 out of 2,000 eligible freshmen.

Pell Grants will stay the same for next year, but Congress has eliminated the grant for summer 2012. The most a student can receive through a Pell Grant is $5,550 a year, but a dramatic proposal being discussed by Congress could reduce the amount by almost $2000 in the future, Melecki said.

UT will lose $119,000 from the Federal Work Study program and $7,000 from the state’s program, he said.

“What we are dealing with here is fewer grant dollars for all of our students and quite frankly, that means we will have to offer them more forms of loan dollars to help them fund their education,” Melecki said.

He said the government loans offered to students have good interest rates and flexible payment options, and it’s a good investment for education. Financial services will hold workshops next semester to help students manage their finances better, he said.

Nutrition junior Monique Maiorino said it is imperative she gets grants that will cover her entire tuition next year. She said she had to take out loans last year, and the burden of paying them off is overwhelming.

“It’s also on my dad because he had to co-sign for bank loans,” Maiorino said. “It’s kind of scary for both of us because we are going through a rough time.”

Advertising graduate student Jessica Colt said her summer financial aid package was unexpectedly delayed three weeks and she did not have any money to pay for books and supplies for summer classes.

“I felt like there was no communication [from] the [financial services] staff,” Colt said.

Miguel Wasielewski, Student Financial Services assistant director, said as the fall semester approaches, students and parents have become increasingly anxious to receive notifications of their eligibility.

“Families have also been understanding of the fact that these delays stemmed from the uncertainty of the state budget,” Wasielewski said.

Printed on 06/30/2011 as: Decreased state funding leads to fewer grants