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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“In the words of Tommy Bruce, “”wtf?”” Where’s the funding?”

Even in a recession, the UA has created Arizona Assurance, a new financial aid program for low-income freshmen. 

Eligible students are Arizona residents eligible to receive a Pell Grant and with parent(s) with an annual adjusted gross income, or total annual wages, no greater than $42,400, according to the program’s Web page. This year, the program had 587 freshmen, as reported by the Arizona Daily Star.

Out of the estimated 6,000 first-year UA students, this number is pretty low, but perhaps that has something to do with the number of students who meet Arizona Assurance’s grant eligibility. As earlier stated, the student must be eligible for a Pell Grant. According to the Pell Grant Web site, most Pell funding goes to students with a total family income below $20,000. Keeping this in mind, it’s easier to understand why there are so few students in this program. The Star further reported that only 470 of the Arizona Assurance students returned as sophomores.

For now, Arizona Assurance seems to aid only a small fraction of the student population, especially since the grant requirements are limiting. Even so, the program funding has to come from somewhere. Arizona Assurance is supported by “”grant and gift funds provided by UA and other outside donors,”” according to the program’s Web site, but it’s unclear if Arizona Assurance will continue to stabilize, especially as more students partake in it.

The Star went on to say, “”To be sustainable, the UA needs to raise a $100 million endowment for the program. It has raised more than $10 million so far in pledges and cash, not including the $2 million gift from Phoenix-based Helios Education Foundation.””

In a nutshell, Arizona Assurance will need almost an additional $90 million to stay afloat. Is that going to happen? Are generous individuals going to shell out this kind of money for the program? What happens if the program can’t get enough funding at some point? There are 770 students participating in the second year of this program, an increase of about 200. If Arizona Assurance attracts more students in the future, there will in turn be more funding needed for this service.

It’s difficult to predict how Arizona Assurance will be paid for, or at least how well it will be supported in the future. The Arizona Assurance Web site states, “”Arizona Assurance is funded through a combination of public and private support. Private sources of funding are needed to sustain the program in perpetuity. About $1 million in private gifts are needed annually to support the scholarship component of the program for each incoming freshman class.”” The program seems to prematurely assume that there will be ample endowments for funding. In the end, will the program consistently receive the essential $1 million every year?

After putting me on hold for 15 minutes, a representative from the Office of Financial Aid picked up her end of the line and explained that she could not talk about Arizona Assurance. The woman said to contact Associate Director of Student Financial Aid, Virginia Callahan, who could not immediately comment on specifics on how exactly the program is funded.

Arizona Assurance aims to help students, but the program’s sustainability is questionable, and this could pose a series of financial problems for the university.

— Laura Donovan is the opinions editor. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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