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What about the average Joe?

March 22nd, 2007

While a new financial aid strategy is making John Carroll University more affordable for low-income students, the middle class won’t be left in the cold.

Much of the publicity of the initiative has focused on the help JCU will be giving to Ohio families with yearly incomes less than $40,000. For students who fall into that income bracket and meet JCU academic standards, their education will be nearly free.

Concern has come from some middle-income students who fear they will be bearing the weight of paying for other students’ education.

Vice President for Enrollment, Brian Williams said this is not the case.

“This is a financial aid strategy change,” he said. “It is not taking money from current students to fund it, rather we are spending the money already budgeted for the freshmen class in a different way.”

The different way in which the money is being budgeted will affect students of all income levels. Williams described it as larger rewards to fewer students.

Merit awards will range from quarter-tuition to full-tuition. The popular Presidential Honors Award and American Values Scholarship will be awarded more sparingly, but worth more.

Along with merit, need-based awards have improved for students of all income levels. Work study jobs will be given out in higher volume to middle-income students than in previous years. Utilizing Federal Perkins Loans is another way for students to keep college costs down.

JCU is also trying to award endowment and donor scholarships to middle-income students in more intentional ways.

“We realize that middle-income families do not have the same level of federal and state grant aid as low-income families,” said Williams. “Therefore we have an even larger commitment and responsibility as an institution to make sure that loan debt is kept in control.”

Williams also noted that there has been no change in room and board costs for next year and the Federal Stafford Loan limit for sophomores has increased from $3500 to $4500.

As for current JCU low-income students who might qualify for the new tuition aid, once there is a clear sense of the freshmen class and returning students in early June, a decision will be made on students who are qualified.

Williams outlined the importance of the change in financial aid in a presentation to faculty and staff last Friday. Low-income families represent nearly 37 percent of high school seniors across Ohio, yet only make up 10 percent of JCU’s application pool.

Williams also addressed the concern that low income meant low expectations. The average GPA of low income students is above 3.5, higher than that of middle or upper income.

Ohio low-income students bring with them to JCU an average of over $9,400 of federal and state grant aid. JCU is also asking that these students take out a Stafford loan of $3,500.

“Our need based commitment to meet full-tuition cost for these students is not a full tuition commitment,” Williams said, referring to the grants and loans available to these students.

Since the initiative was announced in early February, JCU has received positive media attention both locally and nationally.

The Reverend Robert Niehoff said it could have significantly beneficial effects on the University.

“This was a huge PR benefit for us that I thought would lead to dollars and all indicators say it will,” he said.