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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Gordon: The Complex Dilemmas of Financial Aid

Outside+view+of+the+Office+of+Scholarships+and+Financial+Aid+at+the+University+of+Utah+in+Salt+Lake+City+on++Sunday%2C+Feb.+11%2C+2024.+%28Photo+by+Mary+Allen+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Mary Allen
Outside view of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. (Photo by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

At the University of Utah, scholarships play a crucial role in covering tuition costs for many students. Data from College Factual shows that about “72% of new students were offered scholarships,” which is above the national average. Despite this positive statistic, the 2024 Utah legislative session has introduced a bill that may act as a counter.

According to H.B. 268, “the president of an institution may waive an amount up to one academic school year’s equivalent of the nonresident portion of tuition” instead of the full amount.

In other words, out-of-state students will be getting less tuition waived by scholarships. This restriction on the scholarship funds allocated to out-of-state nonresident students may increase worries about financial hardships.

Impacts on Inclusivity

At first glance, the bill’s language suggests that it allows legacy students to be the primary beneficiaries of scholarships. However, that also isn’t the case. The Alumni Scholarship at the U currently requires that a student’s parent or grandparent attended the institution, and have held over a 3.3 GPA in high school. If this bill is passed, alumni grandparents would no longer qualify a student for legacy scholarships.

This not only changes the criteria for in-state legacy students but fosters a less inclusive student body demographic. If the amount of money waived for out-of-state tuition becomes more limited, that can reduce the amount of diversity and different backgrounds represented.

The bill’s intent is aimed at maintaining cost-effectiveness, however, what it actually does more so is create financial disparities.

The Debt Dilemma

Reductions in scholarship may directly affect students who rely on financial aid to receive a quality education. Trinity Whitfield, a full-time student at the U said, “Without the scholarships and financial aid that I have received, I would not be in college right now.” Trinity has the presidential scholarship and many smaller scholarships from the U.

A way to combat expensive out-of-state tuition is by applying for residency. After becoming a resident, tuition drops dramatically. Before loans and financial aid, tuition is approximately $30,000 a year for out-of-state students and approximately $10,000 for in-state students.

However, getting in-state tuition is hard enough on its own. Whitfield said, “Students are restricted on how often they can leave the state and how many days they can be away. This makes it very hard for them to be able to visit their families during the holidays and breaks.” These limitations not only complicate the attainment of in-state tuition but also impede students from spending quality time with loved ones when not in school.

Liza Turner, another scholarship student at the U, is currently under the Western Undergraduate Exchange scholarship. She said that “[she] would have to apply for residency after the four semesters if [she] still wanted a cheaper tuition,” which is a dilemma that other students often face as well. Turner feels this will directly affect the number of students that apply to the U from out of state.

This can lead to students taking out loans that would take years to pay back. These loans can burden students upon graduation with significant debt. Statistics show that 54 % of college undergraduates have student loan debt. Ultimately, this bill creates a significant gap between opportunity and educational accessibility.

The Federal Reserve has explained that “the total outstanding student loan debt has increased by roughly 52% since 2013.” This is challenging because higher education has always been viewed as a pathway to social advancement. By limiting tuition, an underlying socioeconomic gap is created.

Proposed Solutions

Adjusting out-of-state tuition can benefit students by offering increased financial support rather than implementing harmful changes to tuition waivers. By creating a university culture that has students from all across the world, diversified experiences enhance the academic outcome.

Not only would this change the student body culture to be more diverse, but students would also feel the burden of tuition and loans lifted. A positive alternative is maintaining the status quo. The current alumni scholarship policy accepts grandparent connections, but H.B. 286 would eliminate them. Instead, the tuition waiver allowance should increase.

With that increase, Whitfield also stated, “The only people who are benefiting from this bill going into effect are the universities. By giving out less in student aid they can spend this money elsewhere. Overall, I believe that this bill is only going to cause harm to students and their academic journeys.”

College is already stressful enough on its own. Utah students don’t need the additional burden of financial stress on the agenda.

 

[email protected]

@lukeg0rdon

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About the Contributor
Mary Allen, Design Director
(she/her) Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Mary is thrilled to be here at the University of Utah studying graphic design. She feels very lucky to get to rub shoulders with the talented people that make up the team here at the Chronicle and is learning a lot from them every day. Other than making things look cute, Mary’s passions include music, pickleball, Diet Coke, wildlife protection, and the Boston Red Sox.

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