Financial aid plan gives Mesa more, but less per student

Mesa State College will receive a greater lump sum for state financial aid next year, but the amount likely won’t keep up with student growth.

Every two- and four-year college in Colorado will get less money per student from the state in 2011–12 under a new, one-year financial-aid plan approved Friday by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Mesa State will be the only four-year institution to get a larger allocation next year, going from $2.5 million this year to a $2.9 million next year.

But the 17 percent increase in state financial aid isn’t expected to keep up with needs for new students, according to a commission report.

Sixty-five percent of Mesa State students receive financial aid. Although the state is struggling to provide aid, federal financial aid should remain steady next year, Mesa State Financial Aid Director Curt Martin said. The college will honor its commitments by increasing financial aid from the institution, if necessary, Mesa State Vice President of Finance Pat Doyle said.

Doyle said the new allocation system could be better, but he is pleased the commission chose the new model over other possibilities that would have resulted in smaller financial awards.

The current financial-aid model uses data that is a few years old to make allocations, making it inefficient for rapidly growing schools such as Mesa State, Doyle said. That’s something he’d like the state to examine when revisiting the financial aid scenario for 2012–13.

“Our financial aid went down 10 percent this year as enrollment went up 15 percent,” Doyle said. “It lags too far behind.”

The new system for 2011–12 uses the same method to allocate money to public and private nonprofit institutions, but it will distribute more money for undergraduate financial aid than would otherwise be possible.

State revenues are pinched, so the new allocation model will take 30 percent of the money that would otherwise go to financial aid for students at for-profit colleges and 10 percent of the financial aid for graduate students and use that money for undergraduates. Even with that padding, all four-year institutions except for Mesa State will see a 3 to 15 percent drop in their financial-aid award.


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