TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – About 22,000 students attending a college or university in the State University System of Florida are eligible for financial assistance but do not apply.
This fact was uncovered by the Board of Governors Presidential Work Group on Financial Aid chaired by Florida A&M University (FAMU) President James H. Ammons.
“This is a huge number and when you see the kind of money that is being left on the table during these hard economic times, it’s obvious we have a communication problem,” Ammons said. “The development of a thorough communication strategy to let students know that there is aid out there is one of our main goals.”
This task force used Pell grant eligibility standards to come up with their recommendations to the Board of Governors. Their recommendation was to use Pell grant eligibility as a consistent minimum basis for determining need for collecting any financial assistance information.
The task force also analyzed the information related to the sensitivity to tuition increases. This analysis revealed that there is $24 million in unclaimed aid that can be used to address the needs of about 22,000 undergraduate students that are eligible for financial aid, but do not submit the appropriate forms for consideration for funding.
“This finding is significant, because if more students were encouraged to apply early and each year, then this would permit the campuses to use other campus based funds to address even more student needs,” Ammons said.
The task force’s second recommendation was to create a communications strategy that encourages more students and families to apply early and annually.
The third aspect of the task force’s research discovered that when we speak of financial assistance for students, we usually tend to think of low-income students or scholarly students. However, low-income students and scholarly students will usually have most of their needs met because they are eligible for the Pell grant or will qualify for state merit-based funding.
This leaves out another price-sensitive group, which Ammons calls the “core” students and families. This group represents about 37,000 undergraduate students, with family incomes between $40,000 to $80,000. Nearly half of the unmet financial need in the State University System is found within this group.
According to Ammons, this report is consistent with the commitment the system wants to reiterate to members of the Florida legislature.
“We hope the legislature would take heed of this growing group families and their need for additional assistance, which federal funding, like Pell, and state funding, such as Bright futures, do not address.”
This led the task force to their third recommendation, which was for the Board of Governors to have campuses review their respective financial assistance for “core” students and families that are non-Pell grant eligible and are sensitive to tuition increases.
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