Financial aid to increase in 2009


Senior Reporter

With the changing economic climate, lost jobs and home foreclosures, some students’ financial situations may not be as steady as they were a few months ago.

To try to help those students, Oakland University has recently created a Special Assistance Fund for students whose changing circumstances would have made them otherwise unable to afford school this year. OU has also recently created three new scholarships opportunities for incoming freshman who start in 2009, and one for incoming transfer students.

“Hardship fund”

The special assistance fund, called the “hardship fund,” was set up with $250,000 worth of grant money for students who are required to send in a summary of what has happened recently to qualify them for the assistance money.

According to Mary Beth Snyder, vice president of student affairs, OU has received over 500 inquiries about the fund, and among those, 51 students submitted a summary of what had occurred in their lives. So far, only 14 students have qualified to receive emergency funds, which range from $500 and $4,000 per student.

“We are continuing to encourage students who experience a sudden change in their economic conditions to visit the financial aid office to see if they qualify for help from the emergency fund or from other forms of aid,” Snyder said.

The average award through the “hardship” fund is $2,500 according to OU spokesperson Dave Groves.

New scholarships

One new alternate scholarship options that will be available next year to incoming freshmen include the $1,000 per year University Recognition Award. To receive this, applicants need high school GPAs of 3.2 and 21 or higher ACT score.

Two other new scholarships for non-Michigan residents are the Out-of-State Opportunity Scholarships for freshmen and the Out-of State Opportunity Scholarship for transfer students.

Another is the “100% Tuition Award” for in-need freshmen that let qualified students take classes loan-free.

Students with scholarships need to maintain 3.0 GPAs full-time student status, and complete all credits that they enrolled for to continue receiving funds on a yearly basis.

The new scholarships are one of things OU has been doing over the past few months to

help students afford classes.

Last November, OU offered to let students

with less than $1,500 in outstanding tuition payments register for

classes for the 2009 Winter semester, when normally students with

outstanding debt may not register.

Also, President Gary Russi requested ideas from students and faculty in November to help maintain OU’s financial health.

OU’s financial state

Groves said OU is committed to provide assistance to all students and eligible students need not worry about the fund being exhausted.

He also said that in spite of the economic downturn, OU itself is prepared for the oncoming hard times.

“Through prudent and conservative budgeting over the years, Oakland University is well-positioned to weather the economic downturn,” Groves said.

Groves said that as of now, there are no plans to cut jobs, programs or salaries. A change in tuition won’t be decided on until next month, when the governor’s budget and the recommendations for university funding are received.

Students’ reliance on aid

Many students at OU rely on financial aid, like freshman mechanical engineering student Demarcus Green.

“If I lose my financial aid, I’m screwed,” Green said. He said he has

to pass 60 percent of his classes and maintain a 2.0 GPA to keep his

financial aid.

Other students, like junior journalism student Jonell Barr, are

concerned with getting through school quickly so she can start earning

an income.

“I don’t have the luxury to take my time,” Barr said.

Barr said that her financial status hasn’t recently changed, so it’s

unlikely that she will qualify for the Special Assistance Fund.

“I’m still poverty stricken,” she said, laughing.

OU also offers grants that must be applied for through the Free

Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, in addition to the

scholarships. Green and Barr said they haven’t yet filled out a FAFSA

form this year, but they intend to. OU recommends that the FAFSA be

filled out as soon as possible, as aid is given on a first-come,

first-serve basis.

The deadline for filing FAFSA for the 2009-10 year is March 1 in Michigan. Students must file a FAFSA to receive financial aid.

– Katie Wolf contributed to this report