Feb 152006
Authors: Elena Ulyanova

Because only about half of the Colorado students eligible for financial aid can currently be assisted, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) will ask the state to contribute an additional $55 million to financial aid.

Although the state already allotted $77 million to financial aid, of the 71,000 students eligible to receive it, only 36,000 are served, said Diane Lindner , CCHE chief financial officer.

"Because we think financial aid is an important component for low income students that might not otherwise go to college, we want to be able to serve more students with more money, especially the neediest," Lindner said.

All undergraduate and in-state students who received Pell Grants and those with less financial need are eligible for state aid. At CSU, 3,481 students received the Pell Grant from the federal government, which is only given to the neediest students. Only 1,217 of those students were given Colorado student grants and aid, said Sandy Calhoun, director of financial student services .

"State aid is critical to students and there is not enough, I don't think anyone disagrees with that," Calhoun said.

Calhoun also noted that an assessment of the status of financial aid at CSU that began in the fall showed that from school years of 2002-03 to 2005-06 there has been a 30 percent decline in state financial grants and work-study. Simultaneously, there was also a 62 percent increase in institutional grants and scholarships, which comes from general funds that the university sets aside.

"I think students are really getting discouraged about it because the stress of paying for school is overwhelming and you focus more on ways to pay for school than actually paying attention to your education," said Crystal Carr, freshman business administration major .

In Colorado the lack of financial aid has been apparent for several years, Lindner said. A few years ago, $91 million went to financial aid; that number has now decreased by $14 million.

"I think it's a variety of issues that need to be fixed, one is the way we look at financial aid," Lindner said.

Currently, the state uses the federal government's allocation formula to distribute aid by allowing 150 percent of the amount of federal aid a student would receive. The formula determines the expected family contributions through factors such as income, number of children and assets. This number is subtracted from the cost of attendance at the institution and the need calculation is revealed. Lindner said that generally students with a family income of $28,000 or lower are considered level one need. The average grant apportioned to a level-one need student is $2,000.

The CCHE is discussing new options to reform state financial aid.

"Twenty-five thousand of the neediest students don't receive state aid," Lindner said. "What we would like to see is that state grants are transparent for students so they can do their financial planning for college, and it can be transferred between institutions and that they are given to the neediest students."

Calhoun recommended that students who have difficulty covering their educational expenses should seek help from the Financial Student Services Office.

"There are institution and federal programs that could help a student meet their expenses," Calhoun said. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of loan programs. Limited funding from the state means that students have to borrow more; we target the state aid to the neediest students,"

Elena Ulyanova can be reached at campus@collegian.com



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