Financial aid dips as enrollment increases

Mesa State College students may notice some changes to their financial aid packages this year.

Some of those changes may be in their favor. Some will not.

This is the first year flexibility provided by 2010’s Senate Bill 3 will allow Colorado colleges and universities to dole out state-provided financial aid in any way the institution chooses, rather than based on previous state minimums of $1,500 per recipient.

That means more students may get financial aid, but others may get less.

Chad Boyle, a senior who began attending Mesa State in spring 2009, was shocked to see the amount of his state-funded Colorado Student Grant decrease from $1,500 to $1,000 this year.

“It seemed almost like a slap in the face,” Boyle said.

While some awards decline, so has the amount of state funding Mesa State can provide per student.

The state bases how much financial aid it awards each college based on a three-year rolling average of enrollment.

This year and last year’s state contribution to financial aid for all Colorado colleges and universities was based on fall 2009 enrollment.

That’s a problem for Mesa State, which had 6,968 students in fall 2009 and may have as many as 9,000 students this fall, according to Vice President of Student Services John Marshall.

“It will be 2012–13 before they recognize our growth,” he said. “A lot of that growth involves students with great financial need.”

The number of Mesa State students receiving state aid increased from 2,406 in 2009 to an expected 3,738 this fall. Meanwhile, state aid has decreased from $2.8 million in 2009 to a projected $2.5 million at the college, meaning the average amount of state aid per student has declined 43 percent.

The college tried to make up as much of the difference as possible, Marshall said.

The school spent $4.2 million last year on institutional aid to students, up from $1.6 million four years ago. That money came from fundraising and saving money from other areas, he said.

“Every dollar we have to supplant in state financial aid is a dollar we don’t get to use for the institution,” Marshall said.

Boyle said he’ll make due without the extra $250 per semester this year, but he said he is worried about financial aid’s future.

“My concern is freshmen and sophomores are going to be taking out more loans to cover additional tuition costs,” he said.


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