Financial aid budget rises 25 percent

The number of students who are able to pay their school bills has not declined despite the economic recession and a national survey that shows otherwise, a university official said.

An e-mail survey conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reported that more than 65 percent of the 43 college registrars who responded said they had noticed an increase in unpaid bills this year, but financial officials have yet to see the trend at TCU.

Mike Scott, director of scholarships and student financial aid, said the financial aid department has seen an increase in students asking for help recently.

The university increased the undergraduate financial aid budget by 25 percent at the beginning of the year allowing the department to make a substantial increase in the institutionally funded financial aid this year, Scott said.

Cheryl Wilson, university controller and associate vice chancellor for financial services, said she attributes much of the success in students’ being able to pay their bills to the financial aid department.

“I think it’s a testament to financial aid,” Wilson said. “I know that the financial aid office is being extra sensitive in helping meet students’ needs this semester especially in light of what’s going on in the economy.”

According to the financial aid Web site, 70 percent of students receive some kind of financial aid.

The financial aid department has taken a proactive stance on contacting students and has done more one-on-one work with students this year than in years past, Scott said.

Financial aid and financial services departments have also been very sensitive in coordinating efforts this year, Wilson said.

The two offices stay in close contact all through the day identifying students who are struggling to pay tuition bills and steering them to financial aid, Scott said.

Student accounts are supposed to be paid off before enrollment for a new semester, but students are allowed to register for classes if they owe less than a few hundred dollars, Wilson said.

Efforts made by the financial aid department seem to be working to keep students enrolled and paying their bills on time, Scott said.

“Every day we’re looking at students on a case-by-case basis to try and find additional funding to help them,” Scott said, “so far it seems we’re at least keeping our head above water with what’s going on with this economy.”

Financial aid may not be the only factor contributing to students’ paying their bills on time, Scott said.

“Students want to stay here and that’s a big part of it as well,” Scott said. “For most students it becomes a value proposition: is what I’m getting worth what I’m paying for?”