Illinois University financial aid unaffected by economy
University financial aid unaffected by economy
By Mary Versaci

Financial aid available to students from the University has remained unaffected by the economy.

Reducing the amount of aid given to students has not been considered among the cuts the University will have to make, said Randy Kangas, assistant vice president for planning and budgeting for the University.

"No one has even discussed that as a viable option," Kangas said. "It's a high priority to supplement aid for needy students."

FAFSA forms became available for the 2009-10 school year on Jan. 1, and the Office of Student Financial Aid already has 3,000 applications on file for next year, said Dan Mann, the office's director.

By filling out a FAFSA, students are considered for many financial aid programs, including federal Pell Grants or work studies, Illinois MAP grants and institutional grants, scholarships and loans.

The U.S. Department of Education determines a student's expected family contribution based on his or her FAFSA, said Chris Greene, department spokesman. Financial aid packages are produced by a school's financial aid office.

The federal and state aid that a student is eligible for is determined first. University aid is then given to supplement that amount, Kangas said.

"Financial aid directors put together the best packages they can," he said.

For the 2007-08 school year, University students received over $607 million in federal, state and institutional financial aid. Over 34,000 students at the University, which is about 77 percent of the student body, received some sort of aid, Mann said.

Financial aid will not be a factor in determining the size of the incoming freshman class for the 2009-10 school year, Kangas said.

"The applications are need-blind," he said.

So far, applications for federal aid are up about 10 percent, but federal student aid is not being affected by the economy. There are funds for the 2009-10 school year, Greene said.

The Office of Student Financial Aid is anticipating an increase in applications for financial aid.
More and more families have been impacted by the economy, and we believe this will result in more financial aid applications, but we're not sure," Mann said. "It's a guessing game at this point."

So far this year, the office has not had many students come in seeking additional aid because of the effects of the economy, Mann added.

Kathryn Sims, freshman in general studies, participates in the federal work study program.

"I wouldn't be able to afford U of I without it," she said.

However, she probably won't have to apply for additional aid for the 2009-10 school year. In spite of thousands of job cuts at companies nationwide, Sims said her mom just got a better job, so she should be able to continue attending the University with the help of a work study.

Funding for higher education is included in the U.S. House of Representatives economic stimulus plan. The plan includes increasing the Pell Grant maximum amount by $500 and increasing federal work study, Mann said.

"It will help provide more funding and make it more affordable for students to go to school," he said. "It's encouraging, but it's important to remember that it's only a proposal."

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