IntroductionIt’s no secret that financing a college education is gettingtougher. College costs have skyrocketed over the past decade or so, and there’sno relief in sight.

Average tuition at four-year colleges will increase 7percent this school year, double the rate of inflation. Student aid is notincreasing fast enough to plug the growing gap between tuition and familyfinances. In addition, there is a growing number of older students enteringcollege today. These students have families that they need to support. I know,because I am a family man who has returned to school. I wish to finish mydegree at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The only problems I face arefinancial in nature.

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It is with this in mind that I set about this research. Thenot so simple question: Is financial aid available to older students, and if so,how do they go about obtaining it?The Cost Of EducationThe cost of higher education varies by type of institution.Tuition is highest at private 4-year institutions, and lowest at public 2-yearinstitutions. The private 4-year colleges nearly quadrupled their averagetuition rates between 1975 and 1996.

For private 4-year colleges, tuition andfees for the 1995-96 academic year averaged about $15,400, compared with about$5006 at public 4-year colleges. The cost of attending an institution of highereducation includes not only tuition and fees, however, but also books andsupplies, transportation, personal expenses and, sometimes, room and board.Although tuition and fees generally are substantially lower at publicinstitutions than at private ones, the other student costs are about the same.

According to MS-Encarta94,”the average cost for tuition, fees, and room andboard for the 1995-96 academic year at private 4-year colleges was about $20,165.At public 4-year colleges the average combined cost was about $9290″ (Encarta94).The cost of attending RIT is approximately $15700 per year. Thisdoes not include room and board, or books, and supplies . This cost falls inline with the national average. However , according to Rachel Shuman of the RITFinancial Aid Department,”the increase in cost at RIT was 4.

8 percent for the1996-97 academic year over the 1995-96 academic year.” This falls 2.2 percentbelow the national average for 4 year private institutions. Still, $15700 is alot of dollars for an unemployed family man or woman with little or no income.The Cost Of Living FactorThough the Cost Of Living is not directly related to tuition itis still a major player in the decision making process. Is it possible tomaintain a family financial structure while paying for an education? The cost ofa mortgage, or rent, and other bills that are associated with living adds up tomany thousands of dollars per year. These costs in addition to what the tuition,books, and supplies total are expected, and have to be dealt with.

The financial burden alone can seem over-whelming to some. Butlet us consider what the total cost of living and attending a four year privateinstitution are. The Bureau of Census statistics for the County of Monroeindicate “that the approximate average income for a family of four is $50964.The poverty level for a family of four is approximately $15455”. These arestatistics calculated for the 1995 calendar year. No newer statistics wereavailable.

With these statistics in mind we can then determine the financialmodel we must follow. This model will determine what the total yearly outlay afamily of four must shoulder in order to send a person to RIT. The Financial BurdenFirst and foremost a family has to live. The Census dataindicates that the minimum a family must earn is “a poverty level income.” So,let’s assume a family needs $16000 per year for living expenses. The cost ofattending RIT is $15651 per year. Books and supplies are approximately $1200 peryear.

Finally, travel expenses will be approximately $500 per year. I amassuming that one spouse will be working to cover the living expenses. So, I amexcluding medical and dental costs. These costs are partially or fully coveredby an employer.

In the event they are not let us include them in the povertyscenario, which basically means the family must pay the costs.The total amount of funds needed are $17700 the first year. Ifyou increase that number by 4.8% each year thereafter you can come up with theprojected amount for each school year.The $17700 figure remains the obstacle toovercome.

This cost has to be covered by Financial Aid. If this cost cannot becovered by the available system, the student will not be able to pursue astandard four year degree at RIT.Family’s Will StrainIt’s going to be tougher to pay for college in 1996, and that’sgoing to widen the gap in enrollment between rich and poor students that thenation has struggled three decades to close. Average tuition at four-yearcolleges will increase 6 percent this school year, double the rate of inflation.

But family income isn’t keeping pace; “after adjusting for inflation, theaverage family has gained hardly any ground in the 1990s,” says the Departmentof Labor. As a result, says the Department of Education,”sending a student to aprivate college in 1996 without any grants or loans will require more than athird of a typical family’s income and nearly two thirds of the income of aworking-poor family.”The GovernmentStudent aid is not increasing fast enough to plug the growinggap between tuition and family finances. The federal government supplies 75percent of student aid. But the value of federal grants has eroded sharply,covering only 10 percent of tuition today, compared with 20 percent a decade ago.The Financial Aid Page explains that:Congress’s budget-cutting Republicans want to spend $450 millionless in1996 on student grants, a move that education officials saywould takenearly 200,000 student off the grant rolls. Also at risk: a newfederalprogram that helps less affluent students by permitting them torepayfederal loans over a longer period if their incomes’ aftergraduation aremodest (Kantrowitz).

Not surprisingly, the American Council on Education anorganization of colleges and universities, recently reported that fewer collegesthan in the early 1990’s report enrollment increases among black and Hispanicstudents, who are generally less able to pay for college.Once in school, moreand more students must work to pay their tuition bills. At least 40 percent offull-time undergraduate students are earning while they learn, says the ACE.The prognosis isn’t encouraging. “The tuition spiral is notlikely to end, nor is student aid likely to catch up anytime soon,” writecollege cost experts Lawrence Gladieux and Arthur Hauptman in a new report, “TheCollege Aid Quandary.

” To a nation that likes to think of itself as ameritocracy, not merely a bastion of privilege, that’s a disturbing message(Kantrowitz).Well, that’s a lot of important statistical information. EnoughI think that most people would like to throw this paper out and forget the wholeidea of returning to school. But not so fast, there is a light at the end ofthis tunnel!Where Should I Begin My Search?The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend is thebest place to begin your search for free information. The financial aidadministrator can tell you about student aid available from the federalgovernment, your state government, the school itself, and other sources. You canalso find free information about student aid in the reference section of yourlocal library (usually listed under “student aid” or “financial aid”).

Thesematerials usually include information about federal, state, institutional, andprivate aid.The major source of student financial aid is the U.S.

Departmentof Education. Nearly 70 percent of the student aid that is awarded each yearcomes from the U.S. Department of Education programs (approximately $23.

4billion in 1992-93). Student aid is also available from other federal agencies,such as the U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Department of VeteransAffairs. The free student financial aid materials available in the financial aidoffice at your school include The Student Guide, a free booklet about financialaid from the U.

S. Department of Education, and the Free Application for FederalStudent Aid (FAFSA). (Education)Financial Aid for Older StudentsMany scholarship and fellowship programs do not have agerestrictions. If there are restrictions, they are expressed in terms of thestudent’s year in school (e.

g., high school senior) and not as an age limit.Thus there are many awards for which older students are eligible, simply becausethe awards do not disqualify students based on age.

Older students shouldconduct a search for aid just like younger students. There are no,”agerestrictions on eligibility for federal student financial aid. Although manyschools restrict eligibility for the school’s own financial aid programs to thefirst Bachelor’s degree, some schools will waive the restrictions when thestudent is an adult returning to school to earn a second degree in preparationfor a career change” (Kantrowitz).The Financial Aid OfficeFollowing the advice of the sources I have used for compilingthis research paper I contacted the Financial Aid Office at RIT and set up aninterview. While waiting for the date of my appointment I compiled a list ofquestions I would ask the Financial Aid Officer(FAO).

When the day of theinterview was at hand I was prepared. The FAO’s at RIT are assigned to studentsalphabetically. My FAO is Rachel Schuman and she was genuinely surprised that Ihad a prepared list of questions. Here is a synopsis of that interview.I asked her what the total cost of attending RIT would be forthe coming school year? What expenses are incurred? What are the chances ofbeing turned down?She was fairly straightforward about answering most of thequestions that I posed.

However on some sticky issues she was reserved. At onepoint she had to check with her boss for an answer. I wondered if she was merelyasking her boss if it was against policy to answer certain questions.There were a number times that she simply pointed across thehall to admissions.

Indicating that they could answer my questions better.The basic answers were that Yes RIT gives Merit Scholarships,and that probably some type of loans and/or work study program would be required.Mrs. Schuman then told me that if you are eligible for aid you will receive it.

I was not particularly encouraged by her explanations and as I found out later Ias right.The first thing you have to do is get accepted by the CollegeAdmissions Department. This in itself is another bureaucratic nightmare.

Italked to Al Biles the Assistant Dean of Computer Information Technology andsaid,”Just go over to admissions and sign up.”Well when I got to admissions I paid my fee and waited for threeweeks for a letter that never came. Instead I got a postcard telling me I needto get my GED. I went back to see Mrs. Schuman.Rachel then explained to me that there is a process forobtaining financial aid. You must first fill out all necessary forms andapplications.

Then according to the information you supply you will be assigneda Student Aid Report(SAR). The SAR will show your Expected FamilyContribution(EFC). Then your EFC is subtracted from the schools Cost ofAttendance which gives your FAO the students Financial need.Based on my interview with Rachel Schuman it became apparentthat I needed to arrange an interview with admissions. In order to clear up thetwo unanswered questions. But, before I left, Mrs.

Schuman gave me threeapplications to fill out. The FAFSA, the New York State Tuition Assistance(TAP)application, and the RIT Application For 1997-98 Financial Aid For ContinuingUndergraduate Students. At this point it was becoming very clear to me thatthere is money available, but the process is slow and filled with bureaucraticred tape. I guess if you want to play though, you might as well play with thebig kids.

AdmissionsShortly after my talk with Rachel Schuman I telephoned ReneeMinnich. Renee Minnich is the Assistant Director of the Office of Admissionsfor RIT.I asked her,”What portion of the most recently admitted class is payingfull tuition?”Her reply, “Practically nil.

Most of our students receive aid.Those that do are working full time and attend class at night. But they areusually subsidized by their employers.””Do you package preferentially?””Yes we have merit based scholarships for outstanding students.

But we attempt to meet the needs of each student individually.”ConclusionWell there we have it. The system at RIT is set up as ameritocracy for the most part. Those students which have proven themselves inHigh School or are transfer students have a far better chance of receivinggrants and scholarships.

The rest of the students will receive some sort of loanrelief. Still others will receive aid based on their financial situation. Thesystem is complicated and you the student are at its mercy. Remember also, youmust get admitted first before you need apply for financial aid.Category: English

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