FIUSM: Hard times, harder requirements: Students plea for financial aid as it becomes more scarce

Story originally posted to FIU Student Media (FIUSM.com) on Nov. 16, 2013

By Alonso Montano

As a result of economic hard times and a constant increase in enrollment numbers, students at Florida International University will have to meet different, more difficult requirements to qualify for financial aid.

“The requirements went up a little bit, so we have seen a little reduction in the numbers of students who are eligible because the test scores went up,”  said Francisco Valines, director of financial aid at FIU.

However, current students receiving financial aid should not be affected by the changes in criteria for scholarship awards.

“As long as they meet renewal criteria for their scholarship, [and] as long as they do well while they are here, they are going to continue to keep it,” Valines said.

The real effects of the higher test scores and overall tougher requirements will be reflected in the number of incoming freshmen who receive any form of financial aid.

“Next fall is going to be the bomb,” said Valines, in reference to the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program.

“Students who graduate from high school in 2014 have a much higher test score requirement and we expect there could be as many as 80 percent of our Bright Futures kids who would’ve gotten it… [that] aren’t going to get it next fall,” Valines said.

About two years ago, the Florida legislature decided to raise the bar for scholarships offered by the state; Valines believes the impact of these changes will be even more noticeable by the next school year.

“We might go from where we’ve had 75 percent of our incoming freshmen bring in Bright Futures to just 35 percent of them,” Valines said.

Even though the amount of awards received by students will go down, the FIU’s numbers are not low in all categories of financial aid. In fact, when it comes to loans and debts, the FIU’s numbers are better than average. According to Valines, only about 50 percent of current students use loans, which is well below the national average of 66 percent.

“Half of our students graduate without any debt. For the other half that graduates with debt, the average debt is about $17,000,” Valines said.

“The Project on Student Debt” states that the national average of debt owed after graduation is $26,600.

Some students, however, believe FIU could be doing more to help not only future students but current students as well.

“I think there’s a lot of people that should be receiving financial aid that aren’t,” said Melissa Cruz, a junior and a psychology major. “[FIU] needs to continue to make it one of their priorities.”

James Hall, a junior majoring in international relations, had a similar point of view.

“I think that it shouldn’t be necessary for students to pay ridiculous amounts of money to go to school when they are just trying to pursue a career,” Hall said. “The school should do something to facilitate tuition and help students out financially.”

“They need to focus on making it a little easier for people who are studying and making an effort,” Cruz said.

About Kate Spencer

Kate Spencer is pursuing a Master of Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in the College of Communication and Information.

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