College Board report shows fees, aid up

    With a slumping economy and rising tuition affecting students across the country, the College Board released a study detailing trends in college pricing and financial aid on Oct. 21. The study found that fees for tuition and room and board at four-year public institutions increased an average of $947 for the 2003-04 academic year, with shrinking state budgets causing an increase in tuition and fees nationwide.

    However, the study also found that, nationally, colleges distributed a record total of $105 billion in grant aid, causing the average fees paid out of students’ pockets to actually decrease compared to last year.

    With the state of California undergoing a budget crisis and cutting the University of California budget by $410 million, UCSD was not immune to this trend, increasing fees by $1,150 for California residents for the 2003-04 academic year. Despite the increase, UCSD’s fees for California residents, currently at $4,984, remain well below the national average for public four-year institutions, which the College Board reports as $10,636.

    The fee increase comes after seven years of stable or decreasing fees for the University of California in which fees declined a total of 10 percent. Grants will also cover the full fee increase for 40 percent of UCSD’s students.

    “”Studies show that the grant aid goes up much faster than the increase in fees, something like 84 percent,”” UCSD Director of Financial Aid Vincent De Anda said. “”One of the reasons for this is as fees go up, more money is returned to financial aid in the university aid program. Also, the Cal Grant program will cover the full increase in fees for low-income students.””

    Many UCSD students are greatly helped by financial aid.

    “”The aid program at UCSD is great,”” Sixth College freshman Nicholas Ledesma said. “”Without the program they have here, I would not be able to attend this university. I think it’s awesome that other people would help pay for my education.””

    Despite the budget cuts, the financial aid program has remained relatively unaffected, with over $141 million in grants, loans and scholarships distributed for the 2002-03 academic year. Nearly all financial aid comes in the form of federal Pell grants for low-income students, state sponsored Cal Grants for low-income students who meet certain academic requirements, a UC Grant that is derived from student fees or a federal Stafford loan. Grant aid, which doesn’t need to be repaid, accounted for about $54 million, for an average of $2,823 per student, compared to a national average of $2,400.

    “”According to a [UC Board of] Regents regulation, a third of all fees goes toward financial aid programs for the low-income students,”” De Anda said. “”For the most part, the budget crisis hasn’t affected financial aid negatively because the fees went up. With fees going up, we’ve been able to return financial aid to the program. So, from that point of view, it didn’t hurt financial aid. [However], it’s hurt in that, in my budget for example, I’ve lost positionsŠ administrative budgets have been hurt.””

    According to De Anda, the task now is whether the university will be able to provide adequate service to all students as the numbers increase with the budget cuts and strains on resources.

    Middle-income students ‹ students with household incomes between $60,000 and $90,000 ‹ will also receive grants equaling half the cost of the tuition increase.

    However, some middle-income students feel that the grant is insufficient.

    “”The low-income students are pretty well covered as fees go up,”” De Anda said. “”The problem is middle-income students or upper-middle-income students who have no way of paying other than out of their pocket.””

    Sixth College freshman Russell Peavy said he falls into this category.

    “”I feel left behind by the financial aid program and upset that hardworking middle-class families don’t get any support,”” Peavy said.

    The College Board study also found that for low-income students, college fees accounted for 71 percent of household income, compared to 19 percent for middle-income students. In households with incomes greater than $90,000, college fees accounted for less than 6 percent of household income.

    In order to prevent future steep price hikes such as this year’s 30 percent increase, the University of California plans to begin increasing fees at a smaller rate annually, according to De Anda.

    “”What they’re working toward now is figuring out some way to pro rate it out so that each year fees go up a certain amount so that when the state cuts our budget ‹ which is what happened this year ‹ the fees don’t take such a big jump,”” De Anda said. “”We haven’t protected ourselves that way.””

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