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Committee on Financial Aid to Students
Successful operation of student financial aid involves two major components, one related to finances and the other related to service delivery. The financial component involves having sufficient funds for scholarships, grants, and loans to make a significant difference in the lives of students. The service component involves making financial aid available to students in an efficient and equitable manner. Both of these components of financial aid faced significant challenges at The University of Texas at Austin in the last two years.
The nature and amount of financial aid available to students has shrunk due to changes in state and federal programs, and providing efficient service to students has been difficult because of delays in the passage of the state budget in the spring of 2011 and other factors affecting the campus. The Committee on Student Financial Aid met six times during the 2011-12 academic year to consider these and related issues. In an effort to identify critical issues and possible solutions, the committee adopted a list of 10 prioritized goals.
Goals for Student Financial Aid:
- Increase the number of campus jobs for students and build offers of campus employment into financial aid offers.
- Improve and stabilize the timetable for applications for financial aid and notifications of financial aid to enable students (and parents) to plan more effectively.
- Develop a one-stop, central information portal for scholarships and other financial aid resources for students.
- Make increased scholarship funds a top University priority in fund raising.
- Increase student understanding of financial aid processes and procedures.
- Enhance the Bevonomics training program by studying its effectiveness and increasing participation, particularly in face-to-face training situations.
- Find ways to make financial aid more effective in promoting 4-year graduation rates.
- Have a fixed tuition contract for a 4-year degree.
- Create more merit-based scholarships, even if these are small.
- Better align goals and objectives of the Office of Student Financial Services with the goals of colleges and departments in their use of scholarship dollars.
These goals are identified as a starting point for further discussion and implementation. The present report comments only on the top three goals.
The goal with the highest priority is to increase the number of campus jobs for students and to build assignment of campus employment into offers of financial aid. This addresses both the financial and service components of student financial aid. Making campus employment a part of student financial aid increases the total pool of available resources. Incorporating campus employment assignments into financial aid offers relieves students of the burden of securing employment on their own, which may take them far from campus.
Attending college is a major financial burden for students and their families. It is important to make sure that students and their families have sufficient lead time for making applications and for figuring out how to pay for an upcoming semester once they are notified of what financial aid they will receive. The second goal addresses this issue. The third goal is a response to the complexity of student financial aid resources, which include federal and state loan programs as well as scholarship and other resources controlled independently by various colleges and departments on campus. A central one-stop web portal for all of this information would be of great help to students.
Other activities of the committee include the following:
- The committee met with Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter to discuss why the Office of Student Financial Services now reports to the Office of the Provost and how to better integrate the functions of the Office of Student Services with the various academic programs on campus. A major issue in the discussion was how to use financial aid offers as a way to attract and retain outstanding students as well as students from ethic and minority groups and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
- The committee received and discussed a report by Director of Student Financial Services Thomas Melecki on the general status of student financial aid at The University of Texas at Austin.
- The committee received and discussed a report by Director of Student Financial Services Thomas Melecki concerning the status of federal and state-based financial aid, what portions of those programs were terminated recently, and what portions were at risk.
- The committee discussed with Dean Marvin Hackert changes in financial aid for graduate students and the shift of graduate fellowship programs from the School of Graduate Studies to the various colleges.
- The committee received a report concerning the Customer Satisfaction Survey of the Office of Student Financial Services.
- The committee discussed issues related to student financial aid that were included in the final report of the Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates.
- As in past years, in April, a subset of the committee (Chang Liu, Kelly McQuery, and Marvin Hackert) reviewed and ranked candidates for the Ronald M. and Marilou D. Brown Scholarship. The scholarship stipend for each of the top 10 candidates was set at $1,000.
Michael Domjan, chair