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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Freshmen Hit Hard

UA freshman Luis Rivera, who is majoring in English, has experienced the effects of the recent recession on education first-hand.

He is struggling to get by on financial aid while he looks for a job and said he fears having to go to a community college if his scholarship money is affected by state budget cuts.

Rivera is among the three-quarters of collegiate freshmen who used grants and scholarships to pay for college, according to an annual national survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. This figure is the highest since the survey began asking the question in 2001.

Rivera relies on the Arizona Assurance Program, which offers financial assistance to low-income Arizona students. The program also focuses on retention from year to year. Rivera must meet certain criteria, like maintaining a grade point average above a 2.0, in order for his scholarship to be renewed each year.

“”If I didn’t have the scholarship, I probably wouldn’t be able to go to college,”” he said. Rivera added that his extended family pushed him to search for scholarships during his college application process, and is aware budget cuts could worsen the availability of financial aid.

Current freshmen were more affected than ever by the recession, according to the survey. More than half of the freshmen surveyed took out loans to help pay for their education, in addition to those receiving scholarships and grants.

John Nametz, director of student financial aid, said he saw a “”dramatic increase”” in the number of students submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form in the past two years.

“”I don’t think it’s just our freshmen,”” he said, adding the recession is impacting returning students as well. “”I think it’s a collision between the economy, tuition increases, higher costs in travel, concern or fear for the future,”” Nametz said. “”We just don’t know.””

Results of the survey showed that 62.1 percent of freshmen said the current economic atmosphere affected their college selections.

“”Financial aid is important to not only attract students to the university, but for being accessible to students from all socio-economic backgrounds,”” said Emily Fritze, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

She opposes cutting financial aid, and said a reduction in financial aid combined with rising tuiton and fees “”is a double-hit to students.””

“”The universities are in a very tough position,”” Fritze said. “”It’s important to have that pool of money available.””

Nametz said one of his biggest concerns is the rising number of students asking for further revision of their financial aid status, specifically how that number has grown within the last two years. He said he was especially surprised when he looked at numbers in October 2009 and compared them to the previous year. The number of students asking for an additional look at their financial situation had shot up 50 percent.

“”I had students coming in and saying things like, ‘I don’t have enough money,’ ‘I have a problem, my dad lost his job,’ or ‘My mom’s out of work,'”” he said.

Nametz also said he has heard of students who were not in dire need of financial aid applying “”just in case.”” Though Nametz avoided classifying a “”middle income”” group, since it is hard to define, he said non-needy students falling anywhere between the $60,000 to $150,000 income range are applying for financial aid because they might need money to fall back on. These students are not low-income, but may need money to buy textbooks, pay rent or make it through the year without financial issues.

Elma Delic, board chair of the Arizona Students’ Association, said the overall state of financial aid is an issue “”because of the 63 percent increase in tuition and fees over the past three years.””

ASA sent out a survey last semester to all students at the UA and Arizona State University. Of the 11,043 students who responded, 56.82 percent said they were financing college through financial aid.

“”Students are looking to financial aid more than ever right now,”” Delic said.

Nametz said the recession affects more than just freshmen.

“”I do not segregate the group when I see these statistics,”” Nametz said. “”I’m more interested in everybody than just the freshmen. It’s changed my whole dynamic as to how much money I can make sure I put aside for those kind of emergency cases.””

ASUA and the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid are collaborating to offer a free financial aid and scholarship workshop on Thursday, “”given that UA is predicted to incur immense budget cuts,”” according to an email sent out to students by ASUA Sen. Mary Myles.

The workshop will be held in the Catalina Room of the Student Union Memorial Center. The first session will be held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the second from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Students are encouraged to bring laptops if they plan on filling out FAFSA forms.

“”If they start cutting a lot more, a lot of students that can barely afford it, like me, are gonna have to leave,”” Rivera said. “”I’d have to go to a community college that would be more within my means. That’s something I really don’t want to do because I love the UA.””

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