Every Which Way They Can

Jul 11th, 2005 @ 8:42 am | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
Our long-term expert staff member in the area of financial aid to students is Betty Kuss Schumacher. She developed a summary report on student financial aid and its history at Valley City State University. It makes for quite a story.

In many ways, college in the 1960s was a different world. There were fewer adult students then, unless they were on the GI Bill, fewer part-time students, and fewer students who were employed while in school. Working full-time while going to college was almost unheard-of. At VCSU, tuition and fees for full-time study amounted to $138 per year. The annual cost of attendance, with room, board, books, supplies, personal and transportation needs was $1,016.

By 1985, tuition and fees were $1,038 (more than double the inflation rate for those years) and the annual cost was $3,972, which was only about $300 more than the inflation rate. Books, room, and board did not rise quickly during those years, so the tuition increase did not hit students with full force.

Fast forward to this past academic year. Tuition and fees rose to $3,434 in the last 44 years. The annual cost of attendance rose to $12,166, about double the rate of inflation since 1961 and 1985.

So, today's student must come up with about twice as much money as the graduates of the 1960s or the 1980s, after inflation. How do they do it?

Betty's report includes financial aid statistics for the years since 1985. The federal SEOG grant program, work-study funds, and Perkins loan funds combined have only increased by 8 percent in the last 19 years. That is not 8 percent per year – it is 8 percent total. Pell grants and state grants fluctuate up and down. Clearly, federal and state aid fell far short of the needs.

Nearly all students work now, many of them full time. And they take on significant debt. Compared to 1985, current VCSU students have borrowed 51 percent more in subsidized loans and 68 percent more in unsubsidized loans, with graduates averaging $15,000+ in debt. Private 'alternative' loans are also increasing, with VCSU students borrowing $621,520 in alternative loans in 2003-2004.

The great news is that in the last 19 years, institutional scholarship funds have increased by 208 percent, although the number of scholarships has actually decreased slightly in order to increase the amount of each award to help deal with rising costs. Awards by outside organizations have gone up 72 percent in the same period. To quote Betty, 'Scholarships are playing a key role in helping students with rising costs.'

Special thanks to the hundreds of you who so generously support student scholarships at VCSU. You are making a big difference. Whether you fund V-500, athletic scholarships, or private scholarships, you are helping people who are working hard to help themselves, as well. They will have better jobs, be better citizens, and help lead communities based on what they are learning here both in the classroom and out. Your special lesson to them is the value of giving back, of believing in someone else. Thank you again.