Vol. 13. No. 4
Spring 2004



What does it all mean? A brief glossary of terms

Financial aid: Resources that help students meet cost-of-attendance obligations. Financial aid usually comes from a variety of sources—state, federal, departmental, and institutional—and consists of scholarships, grants, loans, and federal workstudy. Most colleges and universities offer a combination to supplement the student’s personal college savings. Colleges and universities use a federal formula to determine unmet student financial needs, which then determines the amount a student is awarded. To be eligible to receive federal aid at any American college or university, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form, which is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. (Adult assistance is usually needed, as the form requires parents’ tax information to determine the Expected Family Contribution— or EFC—index number.) Information on loans, funding formulas, payback timetables, and a “Student Guide” can be found there as well.


“Free” money or in-kind awards (such as housing in a specific dorm), given through private, government, institutional, or departmental resources. Usually merit- or need-based, but also can be awarded to recipients who meet specific eligibility requirements. Scholarships range from the prestigious National Merit Scholarships, based on test scores, to the more offbeat, such as the David Letterman Scholarship at Ball State University, an annual gift to a telecommunications major based solely on creativity, not grades.

Mostly governmental financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid, generally for undergraduate students. Based on need, enrollment status, the cost of attendance, and funding formulas used by colleges and universities. The basic grant for undergraduates is the federal Pell Grant, which ranged from $400 to $4,000 for the 2002- 03 academic year.

Federal work-study: Part-time work provided on campus to students in exchange for a paycheck. Eligibility based on financial need.

Tuition waiver:
For the most part, tuition waivers, such as the U’s Presidential and Honors-at- Entrance waivers, are meritbased and offered to high school seniors who have the highest index numbers. To keep them, students must maintain a 3.7 grade point average (GPA). For more information, go to www.sa.utah.edu/finance/ scholarships/index.htm.

Money borrowed from the government, college or university, or private financial institution that must be paid back, often at a low rate of interest. Students and parents who demonstrate financial need are better off applying for loans through colleges or universities, which already have agreements with banks and other financial institutions. Various eligibility requirements apply. Fellowship: Money awarded to students who show academic excellence, which allows them to research or study full-time. Typically awarded to graduate students.

Work in exchange for tuition reimbursement and money. Typically awarded to graduate students.

Today’s parents and students are keenly aware of the much-researched connection between a college degree and workplace earning power.

But the rising cost of tuition is also on the collective mind of America’s students and their parents, who wonder how they will afford tuition, fees, books, meals, housing, parking, and transportation, not to mention any “extras” like laptop computers, cell phones, and activity fees.

According to the College Board’s most recent annual survey, the nation’s public universities raised tuition by 14 percent in 2003, the greatest increase in more than 25 years. Tuition at American community colleges also rose 14 percent, while tuition at private universities rose six percent. The increases, the College Board noted, were largely due to cuts in state education budgets. After factoring in the increases, tuitions reached an average of $4,694 at public universities, $1,905 at community colleges, and $19,710 at private colleges. Adjusting for inflation, these amounts are more than double the cost of an education at these institutions 20 years ago.

And tuition concerns are intensified by what Suzanne Espinoza, University of Utah director of student recruitment, calls the “emotional complexities” of sending a child off to college. Has she chosen the right campus? Will she fit in and find friends? Will the curriculum be too difficult? Will we still be involved in her life? “And, of course, they worry about the money,” says Espinoza.

According to the Annual Survey of Colleges of the College Board, 2003-2004, the U came in 83rd of 96 four-year, public research extensive (formerly called “research 1”) universities listed by tuition cost. Combined tuition and fees for fall and spring semesters for a lower-division, resident, first-year student taking 12 credit hours at the U totals around $3,072. (In contrast, the three most expensive schools in that category are the New Jersey Institute of Technology [N.J.], $8,500; Rutgers [N.J.], $7,592; and Bowling Green [Ohio], $7,408.)

With the recent economic downturn, affording tuition seems to be increasingly difficult, even for families who have planned ahead. According to estimates from the 1999–2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, by the time they graduate from four-year public institutions, American undergraduate students will have an average of $15,375 in debt. Those who earn undergraduate degrees from four-year private institutions will have an average of $17,250 in debt. At the U, the average cumulative debt of an undergraduate student borrower in the class of 2003 was $12,400.


Kent Larson, director of financial aid and scholarships at the University, explains that as college enrollment and tuition have increased nationwide, so has the amount of financial aid awarded. But the availability of grants and scholarships—or “free” money—has not kept pace with the price of attending college. As a result, Larson notes, students and their families are turning to loans to finance post-secondary education.

Over the past decade, disbursements of loan money at the U increased 106 percent. Ten years ago, for the 1992-1993 academic year, the U certified loans for its students in the amount of $30,793,284. Of the $104,130,467 disbursed during last year, $63,516,899 was loan money. The balance of financial aid was granted in the form of scholarships, grants, and federal work-study. According to Larson, nearly half of all U students receive some form of financial aid.

Before students borrow money, Espinoza suggests they keep several issues in mind. Schools often lure freshmen with generous financial aid packages, but then offer less “free” funding and more loan money to the same students as sophomores and juniors.

“Students tell themselves that they may be able to make the $40,000 educational debt payment,” Espinoza notes. “But what are the implications? What kind of job will they have to get? How will the debt affect their other life decisions—like whether or how soon they can go to graduate school, buy a home, or start a family? Students should focus on getting the best education they can without mortgaging their future. There are many wonderful state-supported schools with reasonable tuition. Students need to compare the implications of coming out of undergraduate school with $40,000 worth of debt, and getting a world-class education without owing anyone a dime.”

College financial aid officers nationwide all repeat the same mantra: It’s never too early to begin planning for a college education.

Jenny Haug, an 18-year-old University student who received three scholarships to attend the U, agrees, and recommends that high school students consult their school scholarship offices early. “The advisors and counselors there know so much more about the opportunities because they have gone over and over them,” she says.

Larson gives pre-college students this advice: “Do well in school, work hard, search out what scholarships are available, file a FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] form, and contact financial aid offices. Become gainfully employed and build savings,” he says. “The more money students can come up with on their own, the better off they will be.”

For more information on the many scholarships that are offered at the University of Utah, go to www.sa.utah.edu/ finance/scholarships/index.htm. To speak to a financial aid representative at the University, call (801) 585-6411.

—Ann Jardine Bardsley BA’84 is a writer in the U’s public relations office and the parent of a high school senior.

Finding a Scholarship

Not a valedictorian or MVP? There are plenty of other scholarships available besides those awarded for academic and athletic prowess, according to Peter Kraus, a librarian at the U’s Marriott Library who teaches a short course on scholarship resources. He recommends the following online resources for finding general scholarship and financial aid information that is timely and accurate: www.ed.gov/finaid, the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site for information on student aid, and www.collegeboard.com, a site maintained by the same company that administers all of the standardized testing for universities. “It is a great resource for finding scholarships on the local, regional, and national level and provides an overview of college costs, scholarships, financial aid, the loan process, eligibility, and avoiding scholarship scams,” Kraus says.

Kent Larson, director of financial aid and scholarships at the U, recommends www.fastweb.com and www.findaid.org, both popular sites for students. Kraus and Larson emphasize that all information on college financial aid should be free. They warn students to be on the alert for scholarship scams. (More information on this is available at www.finaid.org/scholarships/scams.phtml.)

Many publications and catalogues are available at the Marriott Library. Kraus likes The College Board Scholarship Handbook since it is updated annually. For nontraditional students, he likes Financing Your College Degree: A Guide for Adult Students by David Finney, and College Costs & Financial Aid Handbook, both published by the College Board. He also recommends the following specialty guides: Financial Aid for Research and Creative Activities Abroad, the Directory of Financial Aid for Women, and the Directory of Financial Aid for Minorities, all by Gail A. Schlachter and published by Reference Service Press.

A listing of foundations for programs that serve girls and women can be found at www.fundsnetservices.com/women.htm.


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