Less aid given to students despite increased budget

JULIANNE STRIBIAK / SPECIAL PROJECTS REPORTER

The class of 2018 received roughly $400 less in aid per student, despite an increase in Butler’s financial aid budget.

Melissa Smurdon, director of financial aid, said the financial aid budget increased from $55 to $57 million from last year to this year.

Smurdon said a majority of the financial aid budget is unfunded, and the aid given out can be looked at as “a discount.”

Financial aid does not need to be funded by actual dollars. It can be offered as a discount, instead of using money from another source.

“So a lot of this money is not real money,” Smurdon said.

In other words, the office of financial aid considers how much the university would profit if a student paid full tuition, as compared to how much aid it can offer a student.

Some changes were made with the financial aid budget that affected this year’s freshmen class.

A decrease in the discount rate led to new students receiving less aid per student, compared to previous years.

Smurdon said the amount of aid offered depends more on an individual student and his or her specific financial needs, rather than the class as a whole.

Some factors that come into play when deciding how much aid to offer each student include academic credentials or merit and talent awards, as well as each individual student’s ability to pay tuition based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

In fact, Butler’s financial aid increased merit scholarships this year.

“We put millions and millions and millions of dollars out on the street,” Smurdon said. “And who accepts it is who comes.”

Therefore, students who qualify for merit scholarships are able to receive more money than students from previous years.

The amount of merit scholarships given out depends on which students decide to come to Butler and use their aid. If students who qualify for more money come to the university, there will be less money left in the budget for other students.

“We call this an art, not a science,” Smurdon said. “We increased our scholarships this year, so it wasn’t that we gave less, it’s who accepted it.”

Freshman Brooke Van Kampen said Butler offered her the most aid in academic scholarships out of all the schools she considered.

“It was one of the main reasons why I chose to attend Butler,” Van Kampen said.

However, the financial aid budget is running out quickly because new students this year were late on making deadlines, Smurdon said.

“There were families that were just filling out the FAFSA last week and they want to know why they’re not getting the money they used to,” she said.

The deadline to turn in FAFSA in Indiana is March 10.

Students were late in other areas as well, said Aimee Scheuermann, director of admission.

“Across the board this year, students were late in making application for admission,” she said. “They were late in paying their enrollment deposit, and they were a little bit late in letting us know they were coming to Butler. So, you know, anecdotally, that was just the nature of what this class was.”

Van Kampen said she did fill out the FAFSA on time, but receiving enough financial aid was still an issue for her.

“I received less aid than I needed to attend Butler,” Van Kampen said. “So I ended up having to get a pretty substantial private loan.”

Financial aid also impacts upperclassmen.

Senior Ashley Garrett said the financial aid packages Butler offered her did not cover the amount she needed to attend the university.

“I also received less aid than I expected Butler would give me,” Garrett said. “They offered me less than a quarter of the tuition per year. I can’t afford school without financial aid. I have no financial support from home.”

Scheuermann said Butler provides 48 percent of all financial aid to its students with the rest coming from federal loans and other outside sources.

“So it is not about Butler putting less investment in the students,” she said.

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