‘Uncovering’ Summer Aid

The ASUCI Office of the President hosted an event titled “Summer Aid Uncovered” last Tuesday to give students a better idea of how summer funds are allocated and to provide more transparency from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Maria Khan and Trisha In, two student members of the ASUCI Transparency Committee, were the main organizers of the event and explained why they believed it was important to hold this session.

“Even if [financial aid] is accessible, it is not always easy to understand,” Trisha In, a second-year biology major, said.

“Although this event won’t solve all of our problems, we hope it will be the stepping stone to working closer with the financial aid office and providing more transparency.”

The rest of the event was comprised of a presentation given by Christopher Shultz, the Director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Shultz opened up the presentation with some basic information about the goals of financial aid, how costs of attendance are determined, what types of aid are offered and the various sources of these funds.

Afterwards, Shultz explained  the main differences between academic year aid and summer aid.  During the school year, about 20 percent, or $88 million, of the aid comes from state sources such as Cal Grants; during the summer, only about 1 percent, or less than $1 million, of the aid comes from the state. This decrease in available grant funds to the university explains why the office can offer less aid during the summer.

This summer, a new unit fee cap will be implemented at eight units. This means that students can take upwards of eight units this summer in any or both summer sessions and only get fees for eight units. Since the implementation of this new fee cap, enrollment for summer session rose by approximately 30 percent.

Though the goal of implementing this fee cap was to increase enrollment — which it has — the grant pool for students has significantly decreased. Because of this change in fee implementation, financial aid distribution has changed. Whereas $6.4 million was available for grants in summer 2012, the amount was reduced to $1.6 million for 2013. This difference of $4.8 million will be used to offset the cost of capping the fees at eight units.

According to Office of Financial Aid projections, these grant cuts will affect the amount of grant money — if any — summer school students receive. Students with the least amount of Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for summer aid will now receive a little more than half of the grant amount they received last summer and students with the most EFC will no longer receive any grants.

Many students at the meeting seemed disgruntled, feeling unsure that this eight unit fee cap is going to help them financially. Some students were confused about the fee cap beforehand and unsure of the summer financial aid situation, but this presentation gave a clearer understanding and breakdown of financial aid and distribution.

The fee cap, which was suggested by Interim Executive Vice Chancellor/Provost Susan Bryant, will be adopted for this summer. ASUCI President traci ishigo commented on the fact that neither she, nor any other student officials were approached to help in the decision-making process regarding this fee cap. The eight unit fee program is effective this summer and will possibly be adopted next summer.