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University to continue scholarships, financial aid for students despite economic troubles

March 5, 2009

As the spring semester flies by, students will soon begin to plan for next fall by meeting with their advisor, sign up for classes and ultimately determine how to afford another year of education during this tough economic state. Students may feel the pressure to scrape to the bottom of their penny banks, but UW-River Falls is present, willing and available for students in need.

During this tough economic recovery, UWRF holds strong to providing students with a strong financial aid system and hundreds of scholarships for the upcoming school year.

“From what we know right now, most federal financial aid programs will not decrease for next year,” financial aid counselor Kathy Ripienski said.

Due to the recent stimulus package signed and new acts being passed by the federal government, students in need are receiving support.

According to the U.S. Department of Education Web site, on Feb. 17 President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law. This act will help young people attend and continue college by raising Pell Grants and tuition tax credits.

According to the UWRF Enrollment Services Web site, Pell Grants, unlike a loan or financial aid, do not have to be repaid. Pell Grants are available funds given to low-income undergraduates seeking additional education.

On Feb. 5, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly released a statement regarding the grants.

“The House Appropriations Committee will increase financial aid for college students by including $15.6 million for Pell Grants, increasing the maximum grant by $500 to $5,350, Reilly said.”

Within the state of Wisconsin, the support for students is strong and generous.

On Feb. 17, UW System confirmed that Gov. Jim Doyle’s state annual budget will provide $12 million increase to the UW schools for need-based financial aid.

“Together with significant new federal assistance and tax credits, this expanded state aid sends a clear message to Wisconsin residents—that college remains within their reach and we want them to enroll,” UW System spokesperson Doug Bradley said.

A large portion of the aid given to UWRF students is through FAFSA – a free application for federal student aid – will also see an increase during this critical time.

“If a student’s family has experienced a decrease in income in 2008 compared to prior years, their FAFSA for their next year’s aid will reflect those income changes so they may have more financial need as a result,” Ripienski said.

According to the Information of Financial Aid Professionals, as of Jan. 9, 5,822 students at UWRF applied for FAFSA for the 2007 school year out of the 6,452 students enrolled.

The large portion at UWRF is a small number compared to the number of students who have filed FAFSA nationally.

“Nationally, 1.4 million more students filled out the FAFSA in 2008 than in 2007,” Hamid Tabesh, professor and director of the Center of Economic Research at the College of Business and Economics, said.

With aid received from multiple sources, there is only one loan that is seeing a definite decrease.

“Every college is seeing a decrease in the amount of Federal Perkins Loans they can award. Each college has their own Perkins Loan budget which is determined by how much former students are repaying on their loans,” Ripienski said. “As less of our former students are making payments, there are less new Perkins loans to award to current students.”

Scholarships, similar to financial aid, are still present and obtainable for the UWRF students.

“We do not anticipate offering less scholarships although the award amounts for some of the scholarships will be less due to the economic impact,” scholarship coordinator Logan Spindler said.

According to Kimberly Gould-Speckman, director of advancement services, an approximate 1 percent decrease will occur to the scholarship amounts that are available for UWRF students.

Spindler said the UWRF Foundation has received over 5,000 scholarships applications for the 2009 school year, which is a 75 percent increase compared to the previous year. Out of the mass of applications, the Foundation will be awarding 615 scholarships to students for the 2009 academic year.

The increase in applications received demonstrates the students’ need for support.

“The applications did go up a lot more, which shows that there is a lot more students with economic issues,” Spindler said. “I believe it is a combination factor of the economy and the increase in advertising.”

Students who feel the increased challenge in receiving UWRF scholarships have alternative choices.

“Outside scholarships, outside organizations and corporations are available for students,” Ripienski said. “Know about outside scholarships and apply throughout the year.”

According to one UWRF student, the additional financial aid and the benefits of scholarships and grants all contribute and encourage students to finish what they started.

“You need to make an investment into your students if you want them to pay off,” Mandy Liesch, a junior who received financial aid and grant from the Foundation, said. “I think that the huge investments that I got from our University for my research and study aboard experiences made me a better person, more able to contribute to a global society and positively contribute to a world in a poor economic condition.”