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Volume 69, Issue 148, Thursday, June 24, 2004


Financial aid requests are on the rise at UH

Early applications doubled this year; tuition hikes may be a reason

By Anne Marie Nguyen
The Daily Cougar

Twice the usual number of students applied for financial aid this year at UH, leading to a substantial increase in the amount of aid the University has offered.

More than $161 million has been distributed so far this year, a 96 percent increase over the $81.95 million awarded by this point in 2003, Executive Director of Financial Aid Robert Sheridan said. The number of students who applied for aid early, by April 1, increased to 6,200 this year from an average of between 3,000 and 3,500.

"More students are applying for financial than ever before, and they are applying much earlier," Sheridan said.

The increased financial-aid activity may be caused in part by rising college costs. The UH System Board of Regents approved tuition and fee hikes in April, making tuition for a resident taking 12 hours in the fall $2,043, up from $1,629 last year.

The increases have hit some students hard, even with financial aid. 

"I cannot just rely on financial aid and loans, so I have to work two jobs," Andrew Majsterski, an accounting senior, said.

Some of the aid money comes from the tuition increase itself. Texas public education grants are funded by a percentage of tuition, and 18.5 percent of UH's increase will be put back into aid.

Although money continues to be set aside for financial aid, it isn't enough for the growing number of applicants. Sheridan compared the financial aid pool to a pie, saying if a growing number of people ask for a piece, each recipient has to settle for less.

Loans, which do not carry as many restrictions as grants, are a widely used option to help finance college.

"I use loans, especially during the summer, because financial aid does not cover summer semesters," Priscilla Rivas, a senior education major, said.

Although Rivas said she has not needed to take out loans in the past, "now I have to take loans to pay for the difference due to the (tuition) increase."

The total amount of financial aid the University distributed last year isn't yet known, but Sheridan said it reached $157 million in 2002-03, with 62 percent of students seeking aid. He predicted the total this year will be near $200 million.

Sheridan advised students thinking about applying for financial aid to "cease thinking about applying and apply now if you have not done it already."

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