Investing in our Class of 2020

About ten days ago, our Student Financial Services office posted the financial aid awards for our admitted students who sent us a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Hurray! Providing funding to make it possible for many students with different stories and circumstances to attend UVM is a real benefit for our students.

Here is some important information about these awards and advice as students make their decisions:

  1. In case you haven’t checked for a financial aid award, it can be found at the application status website here. Click on the “Financial Aid Award” button. Awards are available for students that sent us a FAFSA.
  2. Financial aid awards are final unless the award is considered tentative (meaning that additional information is still needed to finalize the award). The sentence at the top of the financial aid award will indicate tentative if additional information is needed.
  3. There are typical categories of the financial aid award (provided you quality):
    1. Scholarship from UVM – any merit scholarship that was awarded is listed here
    2. Need based grants such as Pell Grant or SEOG – students with the greatest need, as defined by the FAFSA, may qualify for these grants
    3. Work study – students who quality for this award will have up to $1,600 allowed in earnings. This aid must be earned (paid in wages from a job on campus).
    4. Student loan – UVM is required to offer this loan to all students who qualify. It is up to the student if they choose to take any or all of the loan (or any amount). As a reminder, a subsidized loan has its interest paid by the U.S. Department of Education while a student is in school; for an unsubsidized loan, the student is responsible for all the interest on the loan.
    5. UVM Award – this is need-based grant from UVM (if awarded, it is in addition to any scholarship awarded). It can be renewed each year, provided the student’s financial circumstances are unchanged, and the student files a FAFSA (and is in good academic standing)
  4. We also take the approach that we provide the best financial aid award available – unless circumstances have changed or there are special situations that were not included, then we do offer students the best award. This is important fact to state since schools have different approaches.
  5. One of the most challenging things for families is comparing costs and financial aid. My recommendation is to start with the billed costs (tuition, fees, room and board – be sure you are looking at the tuition costs for 2016-2017) and subtract the financial aid (don’t include work study). I often have conversations with families who see a larger financial aid award, but aren’t taking into account the differential in cost (or they compare full cost of attendance against billed costs).

The good news is that this investment is for four years – students have a gpa requirement to meet for renewal of any scholarship; the need-based financial aid is renewed, provided a student files a FAFSA annually and financial circumstances remain the same.

What if you have questions about the award? Our staff in student financial services are happy to talk with you about questions. The SFS website also has answers to a lot of common questions that can be searched. The staff can be reached at 802-656-5700. Their office hours are listed here.

Our admitted students are choosing UVM! Comments, like the one below, represent what we are hearing from a number of our admitted students:

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We hope that YOU will say yes to UVM!

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Understanding financial aid at UVM

Just a week ago, our Student Financial Services office posted the financial aid awards for students and parents admitted to UVM. It is a both and exciting time and a stressful time as families make their college decisions this month.

Here are a few reminders and information nuggets that I hope will help clarify any questions.

1.  How do I compare costs? One of the most challenging things to understand right now is  having accurate information about the annual cost of a university. When a student logs on to our student portal and views their financial aid award, they will see an estimated cost of attendance. It is important to understand that this price includes estimates for things that will not be paid to UVM, such as books, transportation and personal expenses. Other schools may present the actual billed costs for comparisons. Therefore, when comparing cost after financial aid, be sure that you are comparing the same figures. The direct billed costs for UVM can be found at the bottom of the page with the financial aid award or on the student financial services website here. I also encourage students and parents to subtract the aid from the costs. I have communicated with a number of students and parents because they received a larger scholarship at another institution, but the costs are higher, and the cost of UVM after aid is actually comparable.

2. UVM awards students the best financial aid available and we are not in a position to change awards based on what other schools provide. We welcome questions and are happy to review special circumstances that students and families may have that do not appear on the FAFSA – the financial aid staff can review special circumstances. Our approach, however, to our financial aid awarding is that we will not negotiate a financial aid award.

3. We have issued some tentative financial aid awards (vs final awards) because we are missing required documentation that has been requested. If your award is labeled tentative, then I encourage you to send in the information that has been requested by student financial services.

We are very pleased that we have been able to offer the kind of financial aid to our potential new students. For some families, they may make decisions to attend other schools because the financial support or the overall cost of another school fits within their family resources. But for many students, the financial support makes it possible for students to attend UVM.

Our Student Financial Services website contains an extensive group of frequently asked questions. These questions and answers will prove to be very helpful to students and parents. The website also describes our monthly payment plan, Tuition Management Services, as a way to help manage the payment of tuition.

Our Student Financial Services staff is available to assist students and parents. The wait time on the phone is longer at this time of year, but the staff is happy to assist in answering questions. Their office customer service hours are listed here.

Please be in touch if you have any remaining questions.

Financial aid – what’s next?

This week, we received FAFSA records for more than 12,200 applicants for fall. Congratulations to those who successfully submitted these forms! It is an important first step to learning more about any additional financial support available from UVM.

What happens next? Students who submitted a FAFSA should receive a confirmation letter from our Student Financial Services office. Students can also check on the receipt of the FAFSA at our application status website using the same credentials sent earlier (ID that begins with “95”. On this site is a button like the one below entitled Financial Aid Application Status.

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If a student clicks the button, then the confirmation of the receipt of the FAFSA can be seen in the section at the bottom entitled “Satisfied Requirements”. If any additional information is required, then it will be listed in the “Unsatisfied Requirements”. Please send the requested information to the SFS office as soon as possible. If this sentence says,  “You have no unsatisfied requirements at this time”, then no additional information should be sent as nothing else is needed.

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By the end of March, the final financial aid award will be available on this same website (click the button entitled Financial Aid Award after March 30). The financial aid award will be listed here.

Some families have shared that they have extenuating circumstances that have significantly impacted their financial situation. This information can be sent to the Student Financial Services office to be included with the information on the FAFSA. This kind of information includes loss of job, or change in income that is not reflected on the FAFSA. This information should include the student’s name and their UVM 95 number. Here are three ways that they can be sent:

  • Submit by fax to 802-656-4076
  • Upload and submit online using our document submission form
  • Mail documents to: UVM Student Financial Services, 223 Waterman Bldg., 85 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05405

This is the same process if you have been asked to submit additional information that is displayed on the financial aid status website.

We understand that this part of the process can be stressful – waiting for the financial aid award and planning how to weigh cost against value. We feel good about the commitment that UVM has made to scholarship and financial aid support. While not always the least expensive option, UVM is clearly a great value for the kind of educational experience we provide our students.

Our staff is here to help answer questions. In addition, students and parents attending the Feb. 20 and the March 20 Admitted Student Visit Days will have the opportunity to meet with staff from Student Financial Services. We look forward to working with you.

Financing a UVM education

Commentary and advice about college affordability is common place – rarely does a week pass when there isn’t some information about this topic. It is important becausean undergraduate education is an investment for a student and family. But unlike many consumer purchases, earning a college degree changes a person’s earning potential significantly over a lifetime.

My post today is less about how that investment pays dividends and more about how we work with students and families in making UVM affordable. We recognize that affordable is a relative term and means different things for families. It is true that we make a significant (and growing) investment in our financial aid toward students. In fact, more than $100 million of the university’s budget is devoted to grants and scholarships for our undergraduate students. In addition, the university has slowed the growth of tuition, room and board for students, with the increase projected for this year to be 3.4%, one of the lowest percentage increase in many years at UVM.

What happens next in the process at UVM? As of last week, merit scholarship awards should all be distributed. Notification of these awards comes by letter, with the last group was mailed March 21. (Many students have already heard about a merit award.) If you are unsure about that award, feel free to contact the Office of Admissions. Students who filed a FAFSA will begin receiving notifcaiton of their financial aid award as tomorrow, March 28. Students will receive an email indicating that their award is available and students can view it at the same place students view their application status.

Students may view their FA awards by clicking the 'Financial Aid Award' button.

Students may view their FA awards by clicking the ‘Financial Aid Award’ button.

 

Some students may be asked to submit additional information. Any outstanding requirements can also be viewed at the page listed above (click on Financial Aid Application Status button.) Finally students who submitted estimated financial information should go back and entered actual 2013 tax information in order to finalize the award.

We believe that this investment in financial aid makes UVM a great value. While students and families may choose other options, for many students, the scholarship and need-based support make it possible to choose UVM. We offer our best financial aid award in our financial aid offer which helps students and families have a  clear understanding of the cost.

We look forward to answering any questions as students receive financial aid and make decisions. We can’t wait for many of our Future Catamounts to accept our offer and say yes!

File a FAFSA!

In discussing the cost of UVM, I often tell families that there is no other purchase that we make where it takes so long to tell someone how much it is going to cost! Because of the availability of merit and need-based financial assistance, we often are able to have the actual price a student pays to attend UVM be lower than the published price. Completing an application for admission (and sending in test scores, transcripts and recommendations) as well as completing a FAFSA (for students who choose to do so) are the two important steps to take in order to access all possible available financial assistance from UVM (except for the couple of scholarships that require a separate application).

February 10 is the priority deadline for filing a FAFSA at UVM. I found that it takes about an hour to fill out the FAFSA for the first time, provided you have all the information gathered that you will need. If you don’t have your taxes completed yet for 2012, you can use estimated information in order to be sure you meet the Feb. 10 deadline. Once your tax information is complete, you can go back into the FAFSA record to update the information.

New to the FAFSA? Be sure to request a PIN from the FAFSA website (the student and a parent will each need a PIN.) These PINs serve both as your electronic signature as well as the unique identifier for your FAFSA record. You will use the same PIN throughout college so be sure to keep track of it (and the password!)

We will begin processing our FAFSA records in mid-February. Our student financial services office will send a confirmation when we receive your FAFSA. If we need additional information, the office will send reminders for that additional information. You can also check on the application status websitee (the same site where you check your application status with you 95 ID number) for the financial aid requirements and award.

Feel free to check out the Student Financial Services (SFS) website. You can ask a questionn their website (where you can ask a question from the Ask a Question tab.) In addition you can talk with a financial aid counselor by calling 802-656-5700.

We look forward to working with you during this process!

Show Me The Money!

This quote, made famous by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the movie Jerry McGuire, is heard in many arenas. I see it quoted frequently when discussing scholarship awards as if they can somehow be equated to sports agents. Scholarships and the importance of receiving them are a reality in the college selection process these days. Institutions have different approaches to awarding scholarships and they often reflect the institutional priorities.

UVM works hard to attempt to keep the balance between offering students money based on past achievement with having resources to provide financial aid based on financial need. To that end, we do feel that it is important to acknowledge the academic talents of a segment of our admitted applicant pool.  Our scholarships are based on information included in the application, specifically academic performance as measured by grades, class rank and SAT or ACT scores. While letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities are used in the admission decision, they are not used for awarding general merit scholarships.

My advice as students receive scholarship awards:

– Avoid the trap of believing that one school wants a student more based on the size of the scholarship award. The scholarship amount is a combination of resources available and where there student’s academic record falls within the pool of qualified students applying this year.

– Do your homework about scholarship renewability. Is the scholarship just for one year or for all four years? What are the terms for renewal – grade point average, program of study?

– Scholarships are not negotiable (despite what the popular media portrays.) Colleges and universities tend to offer their best merit scholarship possible. At UVM, scholarship awards are changed only if there was an error or if information was not included in the admissions application. If new information is available (new test scores or grades) that significantly change a student’s academic record from the point that the scholarship was awarded, share that with the admissions office to find out if new information can be considered. At most schools, there is a point at which new information cannot be considered and the scholarship awarded. At UVM, information that was received at the time of admission is used in awarding a scholarship.

– Merit scholarships are typically separate from need-based financial aid (including grants.) Students who wish to be considered for any additional assistance from UVM should be sure to complete and submit the 2012-13 FAFSA by the February 10 priority deadline.

We sent scholarship awards in December to students admitted as of the middle of December. Students who have recently been admitted and eligible for scholarship will receive a scholarship notification by mid-January; then on a rolling basis every two weeks. Scholarship notification comes in a letter.

Questions about scholarships can be directed to the Office of Admissions or to Student Financial Services. Congratulations to our admitted students who have received a merit scholarship award!