Pursuing a higher education can be expensive, and according to a Gallup/Lumina Foundation Poll, 74 percent of Americans said college is unaffordable.
This is why helping students receive the most they can in financial aid and scholarships is so important, Dan Davenport said.
Davenport, University of Idaho director of student financial aid services, said helping fund a student’s education can provide access to a four-year university for many students, instead of having them go to a community college.
For UI’s financial aid service, he said the key is to encourage new students to come to UI.
“The financial aid people do a lot of recruiting,” said Steven Neiheisel, associate vice president of enrollment management.
Davenport said the first part of recruiting through financial aid is making the process as simple as possible.
He said many people struggle with what to do for financial aid, so UI simplifies the process and requires students who want financial aid to only do two things.
“You have to fill out the application for admission and the FAFSA by the priority date,” he said. “That way, you get considered for everything UI offers.”
UI has more than 1,200 different types of scholarships and this can make it complicated for students to figure out which ones they qualify for, and whether or not they applied for all that they could apply for, Davenport said.
Many other schools require students to fill out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid and then also have students go to each individual department and apply for scholarships separately, he said.
UI cuts that part out.
“We simplify this for prospective students and their parents,” Davenport said. “And I think that that’s important.”
Once the students have applied and filled out the FASFA they are automatically considered for UI Institutional scholarships, along with individual scholarships offered by the various colleges.
As long as students meet the requirements of certain scholarships, they will get them. For instance the Go Idaho and Discover Idaho scholarships, he said.
Go Idaho can give students up to $2,500, if they are from Idaho and have a 3.8 or higher grade point average at the high school level, he said. Discover Idaho has the same GPA. requirement, but is for out of state students, and that scholarship can provide up to $6,500.
The out of state scholarships give more money because they pay a significant amount more to come to UI, Davenport said.
These scholarships are also guaranteed for four years, he said. That way students and parents can look at their financial options in the long term.
After the UI priority application deadline has passed, the financial aid office works to create a financial aid packet for every student that has been accepted to UI, he said.
Neiheisel said they try to base financial aid on the likelihood of the student enrolling at UI.
He said they try to recruit top quality students, but do not try to compete with other schools, especially schools like Stanford.
UI really goes for the National Merit students, who receive full-ride scholarships, Neiheisel said.
Davenport said there are two main types of scholarships — merit and need based. The merit scholarships are based solely on a student’s academic performance and make up 60 percent of the scholarships provided.
Need-based scholarships help students access a four year college who otherwise would not be able to afford it, and logistically these make up 40 percent of the scholarships, he said.
Need-based students also can receive merit-based scholarships, so they have access to more scholarships if they meet the GPA requirement, Davenport said.
He said UI has to track and coordinate $130 million in school financial aid, which comes from institutional funds, endowments and donor funds.
This can be challenging, especially since they try to have the financial aid packets made for each student accepted to UI by the third week of March, he said.
The financial aid packets do not only include institutional scholarships, but also college based scholarships.
Dana Stover, assistant dean of the Recruitment Retention and Assessment Office for the College of Business and Economics, said they have incredibly generous donors who make it possible to award freshmen with a pretty significant amount of financial aid.
She said for incoming freshmen, many of the scholarships are based on GPA while also looking at financial need.
Stover said they, as a college, can also bring down the cost of out of state tuition and make it more affordable for students from different states to come to UI.
In terms of the value of education that students receive at UI, she said the tuition price is an incredible bargain.
Davenport said even though a university education is expensive, he believes it is worth it.
“It is just like buying stocks and investing,” he said. “Only it is an investment in you.”
Making that investment easier is the job of the financial aid services, and besides giving students a financial aid package, UI also does other things to make paying for college easier.
Davenport said UI might be one of the few universities where the financial aid advisers also work the front desk.
This means students can get immediate advice when they come in to the Financial Aid Office with questions.
“We focus on providing immediate help,” he said.
By having people who know what they are talking about work the front, it hopefully eliminates a student having to make an appointment for a few questions. Instead they get answers with the first person they talk to.
The financial aid office also makes sure to have one-on-one meetings with students and families, and work on getting the families to understand the whole process.
“Financing education is a worry for everyone,” he said. “It’s a worry for me, and I’m in the business.”
Allison Griffith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org