By: Taja Cato-Jackson
With recent state funding cuts, Western Michigan University students say they are increasingly frustrated about financial aid issues ranging from how the money is distributed to the number of work study positions available on campus.
The number of students awarded financial aid at Western Michigan University in the 2011-12 school year was a little over $20,000 each, with the total financial aid award coming out to approximately $2.7 million.
Western Michigan University Director of Financial Aid Mark Delorey says the big impact to the work study program occurred when Michigan stopped funding the Michigan Work Study Program in 2007. That meant the university had to offer 400 fewer work-study jobs. A total of 775 students earned a little more than $1 million in work-study last school year through funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
Taylor Laning, 20, a junior at Western, recently transferred from Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Laning received a transfer scholarship of $750. However, she lost her of $1,500 Partners in Education scholarship from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation that she was awarded for four years of college. But when she collected the award for the transfer scholarship, she found out she was denied her previous scholarship.
When Laning went to WMU’s financial aid office, Bronco Express, a financial aid adviser explained to her that Western told Partners in Education that she was no longer in financial need. “They said I was getting too much help,” Laning said.
Laning, who has a 3.67 GPA, receives the Pell Grant, but she turned down the loans she was awarded by financial aid because she doesn’t want to have to pay loans back.
The main difficulty, says Delorey, is the reduction and elimination of key aid programs in the past few years. Grants provided by the state of Michigan for WMU students have gone from about $8.5 million in 2006-07 to only about $800,000 this year, according to Delorey. Students and families have had to make up the difference.
Delorey has been a director of financial aid for nearly 30 years and explains how appropriations, which are the direct support to state schools, have also been slashed, forcing tuition to increase at state schools. The result is that the cost of higher education now falls more heavily on students and parents.
“Tuition has gone up because the state has cut our appropriations,” Delorey said. “Student borrowing has more than doubled from $136 million in 2006-07 to $275 million last year.”
“We do our best to make students aware of the resources available to them, and what options they have available,” Delorey said. “Usually, the options are in the form of student loans.”
Western Senior Christina Piper has also had issues with financial aid. Piper has had a problem with the communication of the university and the fact that she’s never notified when something needs to be changed.
This is the first year she did not receive work study. “It’s very inconvenient,” the 23-year-old said.
She currently receives the Pell grant, Western grant, a subsidized federal loan, an unsubsidized loan, and the Parent Plus loan. However, she did not receive work study this year. In all, she has $11,000 in loans and grants this year. She will have to start paying back loans six months after she graduates next April.