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B-1
Committee on Financial Aid to Students

 

Student financial aid has faced significant challenges at The University of Texas at Austin in the last three years. During the 2012-13 academic year, the B-1 committee discussed several University financial aid initiatives and issues and provided corresponding input and feedback. Lizy John and Chang Liu served as co-chairs of the committee.

The Committee on Student Financial Aid met six times during the 2012-13 academic year on the following dates: September 10, October 19, November 16, February 25, March 18, and April 25. In an effort to address critical issues and provide possible solutions in the financial aids to students, the committee adopted a list of prioritized goals as follows:

Goals for Student Financial Aid:

  1. Enhance the Bevonomics training program, such as increasing students’ participation, recruiting more financial advisors, and providing more face-to-face consultation and training.
  2. Improve and stabilize the timetable for applications for financial aid and notifications of financial aid to enable students (and parents) to plan more effectively.
  3. Improve the process for informing students on termination of financial aid awards due to lack of academic progress.
  4. Review and enhance the effectiveness of the dashboard that is used for student admission and financial aids to students.
  5. Increase the number of campus jobs for students and build offers of campus employment into financial aid offers.
  6. Develop a one-stop, central information portal for scholarships and other financial aid resources for students.
  7. Make increased scholarship funds a top University priority in fund raising.
  8. Increase student understanding of financial aid processes and procedures.
  9. Find ways to make financial aid more effective in promoting four-year graduation rates.
  10. Have a fixed tuition contract for a four-year degree.
  11. Create more merit-based scholarships, even if these are small.
  12. 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 four goals that are discussed extensively by the committee.

Attending college means more independence and responsibility for students, including the financial responsibility. The Bevonomics program provides a great opportunity for incoming freshmen and current students to understand and improve financial management and control in their college journey. The financial knowledge and training is certainly needed such that students can use their financial resources like financial aids in a wise and reasonable manner. Increasing students’ participation, recruiting more financial advisors, and providing more face-to-face consultation and training appear to be reachable steps for the Bevonomics program improvement. Another suggestion is, to overcome the difficulty of being short of funding for the Bevonomics program, student organizations (e.g., those on financial management and investment) may be recruited to serve as financial advisors as community service.

College education becomes a major financial burden for students and their families. It is critical for students and parents to know the timetable of financial aid application and decisions such that they have enough lead time to plan the college education financially. The UT Office of Student Financial Service has been making best efforts to provide students thorough and accurate information of financial aids in a timely manner, especially in recent challenging years. The challenges are mainly due to the delayed timeline of the State legislation and other uncontrollable issues. It should be noted that this issue is broad across the campus. To address this issue more effectively, greater coordination and cooperation need to be conducted thorough UT multiple units including colleges, graduate school, and OSFS. The second goal addresses this issue.

The third goal focuses on the financial aids of students who have academic struggles in college. It is important to inform them in a timely manner with multiple ways (e.g., emails) and levels (e.g., Financial Aid office and their advisors) such that they can realize their problem and have lead time to find out potential solutions.

The fourth goal is concentrated on how to effectively use the dashboard to recruit high-quality students. A number of factors, such as students’ potential success at UT and the diversity at UT, are needed to consider for student admission which is tightly related with financial aids to students. Some concerns were expressed regarding the use of dashboard. Further discussion is needed on this topic.

Other activities of the committee include the following:

  1. The committee received and discussed a report by Director of Student Financial Services, Dr. Thomas Melecki, on the general status and recent challenges of student financial aid at The University of Texas at Austin.
  2. Upon the request from the Senate of College Council for the membership in the Financial Aid to Students (B1) committee, the committee discussed and agreed that the student members in the committee will be composed of two students from the Student Government and two students from the Senate of College Council, and one from the Graduate Student Association, starting from the academic year 2013-14.
  3. Dr. Victor Saenz was elected as the Committee Chair for the academic year 2013-14.
  4. The committee discussed the impact of the four-year graduation rate policies on financial aid and related issues. The success of the four-year graduation is a complicated issue, determined by several factors such as family income, financial aid, and students’ academic performance including their high school and UT performance (like GPA, SAT scores). Several initiatives and policies were in discussion, e.g., $1000 incentive and summer bridging program.
  5. The committee discussed the dashboard that has been used for student admission and financial aid to students and agreed that more discussions are needed.
  6. In April, the Ronald M. and Marilou D. Brown Endowed Scholarship was reviewed by a committee from the Financial Aid Office chaired by Joe Wilcox and the procedure and decision was reported to the committee. The scholarship stipend for each of the top 10 candidates was awarded at $1,000.

                                                                                                                   

Lizy K. John and Chang Liu, co-chairs