James Whitmire pays for all his education with financial aid money.
With future financial aid cuts likely in Colorado higher education, he is not sure if he will be able to continue going to college without working.
“I would assume the amounts of money I’m going to get will diminish…which leaves me pretty much high and dry on everything else,” said Whitmire, a sophomore Spanish major. “If the budget cuts come out, as a student who has to pay for everything, I’ll have to focus more on work to meet my needs, rather than relying on financial aid.”
On April 10, The Collegian reported that a bill had been passed in the Colorado Senate and was working its way through the House of Representatives that would have cut financial aid funding for Colorado public institutions by roughly $8.6 million. That bill was held over until May 8, and because the legislative session ends May 7, the bill was effectively killed.
Now, the financial aid reductions are written into the Long Bill, Colorado’s budget bill. As the reductions stand now if that bill is passed, need-based aid will be reduced by $7.8 million, merit-based aid will take a 54 percent cut and work study aid will take a 9.5 percent reduction. These numbers include public and private institutions.
The numbers could change, however, when a conference committee meets on Tuesday. Representative Bob McCluskey, R-District 52, believes the need-based aid reductions will more likely be around $5.5 million.
“Obviously to me $5.5 million is a lot of money, but if you look at the overall picture, I think the (Joint Budget Committee) and the legislature have tried to be fair and we’ve tried to spread out the reductions over a greater part of the state,” McCluskey said.
Senior Shawn Schwarz said receiving merit scholarships while taking summer school has kept him from owing money.
“If I can’t get the merit scholarships, I’ll have to take out a student loan,” said Schwarz, an English major. “It’s just going to create less opportunity for people to go to college.”
One difference between the original Senate bill and the current reductions in the Long Bill is how financial aid will be allocated throughout the state. The Senate bill required aid allocations to be proportional to last year’s amounts, but the Long Bill reductions will allow the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to allocate financial aid to colleges and universities based on each institution’s needs.
This will be better because it will be “using current numbers rather than enrollment numbers from the previous year,” said Joan Ringel, spokesperson for the CCHE.
“I think it’ll be more reflective of the current situation, rather than doing a proportional representation,” she said. “We will do allocations the way we always do, which is to reflect an institution’s need and enrollment. We’ll try to make the cuts in the fairest way possible.”
Sandy Calhoun, director of Student Financial Services at CSU, said that while it is unknown how much financial aid will be reduced, the university should still be able to honor any aid already promised to students.
“I would anticipate that we would be able to honor all the financial aid commitments we have already made to students for next year, including both new awards and renewed awards,” she said. “It’s important for students to realize that there are a variety of sources of aid, and if they think they’re going to have trouble meeting their expenses next year, then I encourage them to be in contact with Student Financial Services,” Calhoun said.
For Whitmire, receiving financial aid has allowed him to concentrate more on school because he did not have to work.
“In doing so, it allowed me more time to focus on studying,” he said. “I’m sort of hoping this current round of cuts won’t come to fruition.”