Home » Tuition Aid » Tuition Aid- A Student’s Search

Tuition Aid- A Student’s Search


It’s no secret that financing a college education is getting tougher.

College costs have skyrocketed over the past decade or so, and there’s no relief in

sight. Average tuition at four-year colleges will increase 7 percent this school year,

double the rate of inflation. Student aid is not increasing fast enough to plug the

growing gap between tuition and family finances. In addition, there is a growing

number of older students entering college today. These students have families

that they need to support. I know, because I am a  family man who has returned

to school. I wish to finish my degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The only problems I face are financial in nature. It is with this in mind that I set

about this research. The not so simple question: Is financial aid available to older

students, and if so, how do they go about obtaining it?

The Cost Of  Education

The cost of higher education varies by type of institution. Tuition is highest

at private 4-year institutions, and lowest at public 2-year institutions. The private

4-year colleges nearly quadrupled their average tuition rates between 1975 and

1996. For private 4-year colleges, tuition and fees for the 1995-96 academic year

averaged about $15,400, compared with about $5006 at public 4-year colleges.

The cost of attending an institution of higher education includes not only tuition

and fees, however, but also books and supplies, transportation, personal expenses


and, sometimes, room and board. Although tuition and fees generally are

substantially lower at public institutions than at private ones, the other student

costs are about the same. According to MS-Encarta94,”the average cost for

tuition, fees, and room and board for the 1995-96 academic year at private 4-year

colleges was about $20,165. At public 4-year colleges the average combined cost

was about $9290″ (Encarta94).

The cost of attending RIT is approximately $15700 per year. This does not

include room and board, or books, and supplies . This cost falls in line with the

national average. However , according to Rachel Shuman of the RIT Financial Aid

Department,”the increase in cost at RIT was 4.8 percent for the 1996-97 academic

year over the 1995-96 academic year.” This falls 2.2 percent below the national

average for 4 year private institutions. Still, $15700 is a lot of dollars for an

unemployed family man or woman with little or no income.The Cost Of Living Factor

Though the Cost Of Living is not directly related to tuition it is still a major

player in the decision making process. Is it possible to maintain a family financial

structure while paying for an education? The cost of a mortgage, or rent, and other

bills that are associated with living adds up to many thousands of dollars per year.

These costs in addition to what the tuition, books, and supplies total are expected,

and have to be dealt with.


The financial burden alone can seem over-whelming to some. But

let us consider what the total cost of  living and attending a four year private

institution are. The Bureau of Census statistics for the County of Monroe

indicate “that the approximate average income for a family of four is $50964.

The poverty level for a family of four is approximately $15455”. These are

statistics calculated for the 1995 calendar year. No newer statistics were available.

With these statistics in mind we can then determine the financial model we must

follow.  This model will determine what the total yearly outlay a family of four

must shoulder in order to send a person to RIT.

The Financial Burden

First and foremost a family has to live. The Census data indicates that the

minimum a family must earn is “a poverty level income.” So, let’s assume a family

needs $16000 per year for living expenses. The cost of attending RIT is

$15651 per year. Books and supplies are approximately $1200 per year. Finally,

travel expenses will be approximately $500 per year. I am assuming that one

spouse will be working to cover the living expenses. So, I am excluding medical

and dental costs. These costs are partially or fully covered by an employer. In the

event they are not let us include them in the poverty scenario, which basically

means the family must pay the costs.


The total amount of funds needed are $17700 the first year. If you increase

that number by 4.8% each year thereafter you can come up with the projected

amount for each  school year.The $17700 figure remains the obstacle to overcome.

This cost has to be covered by  Financial Aid. If this cost cannot be covered by the

available system, the student will not be able to pursue a standard four year degree

at RIT.

Family’s Will Strain

It’s going to be tougher to pay for college in 1996, and that’s going to

widen the gap in enrollment between rich and poor students that the nation has

struggled three decades to close. Average tuition at four-year colleges will increase

6 percent this school year, double the rate of inflation. But family income isn’t

keeping pace; “after adjusting for inflation, the average family has gained hardly

any ground in the 1990s,” says the Department of Labor. As a result, says the

Department of Education,”sending a student to a private college in 1996

without any grants or loans will require more than a third of a typical family’s

income and nearly two thirds of the income of a working-poor family.”

The Government

Student aid is not increasing fast enough to plug the growing gap between

tuition and family finances. The federal government supplies 75 percent of student


aid. But the value of federal grants has eroded sharply, covering only 10 percent of

tuition today, compared with 20 percent a decade ago.

The Financial Aid Page explains that:

Congress’s budget-cutting Republicans want to spend $450 million less in
1996 on student grants, a move that education officials say would take
nearly 200,000 student off the grant rolls. Also at risk: a new federal
program that helps less affluent students by permitting them to repay
federal loans over a longer period if their incomes’ after graduation are
modest (Kantrowitz).

Not surprisingly, the American Council on Education an organization of

colleges and universities, recently reported that fewer colleges than in the early

1990’s report enrollment increases among black and Hispanic students, who are

generally less able to pay for college.Once in school, more and more students

must work to pay their tuition bills. At least 40 percent of full-time undergraduate

students are earning while they learn, says the ACE.

The prognosis isn’t encouraging. “The tuition spiral is not likely to end, nor

is student aid likely to catch up anytime soon,” write college cost experts

Lawrence Gladieux and Arthur Hauptman in a new report, “The College Aid

Quandary.” To a nation that likes to think of itself as a meritocracy, not merely a

bastion of privilege, that’s a disturbing message (Kantrowitz).

Well, that’s a lot of  important statistical information. Enough I think that

most people would like to throw this paper out and forget the whole idea of

returning to school. But not so fast, there is a light at the end of this tunnel!


Where Should I Begin My Search?

The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend is the best place to

begin your search for free information. The financial aid administrator can tell you

about student aid available from the federal government, your state government,

the school itself, and other sources. You can also find free information about

student aid in the reference section of your local library (usually listed under

“student aid” or “financial aid”). These materials usually include information about

federal, state, institutional, and private aid.

The major source of student financial aid is the U.S. Department of

Education. Nearly 70 percent of the student aid that is awarded each year comes

from the U.S. Department of Education programs (approximately $23.4 billion in

1992-93). Student aid is also available from other federal agencies, such as the

U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The free student financial aid materials available in the financial aid office at your

school include The Student Guide, a free booklet about financial aid from the U.S.

Department of Education, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

(FAFSA). (Education)


Financial Aid for Older Students

Many scholarship and fellowship programs do not have age restrictions. If

there are restrictions, they are expressed in terms of the student’s year in school

(e.g., high school senior) and not as an age limit. Thus there are many awards for

which older students are eligible, simply because the awards do not disqualify

students based on age. Older students should conduct a search for aid just like

younger students. There are no,”age restrictions on eligibility for federal student

financial aid. Although many schools restrict eligibility for the school’s own

financial aid programs to the first Bachelor’s degree, some schools will waive the

restrictions when the student is an adult returning to school to earn a second

degree in preparation for a career change” (Kantrowitz).

The Financial Aid Office

Following the advice of  the sources I have used for compiling this

research paper I contacted the Financial Aid Office at RIT and set up an interview.

While waiting for the date of my appointment I compiled a list of questions I

would ask the Financial Aid Officer(FAO). When the day of the interview was at

hand I was prepared. The FAO’s at RIT are assigned to students alphabetically.

My FAO is Rachel Schuman and she was genuinely surprised that I had a prepared

list of questions. Here is a synopsis of that interview.


I asked her what the total cost of attending RIT would be for the coming

school year? What expenses are incurred? What are the chances of being turned


She was fairly straightforward about answering most of the questions that

I posed. However on some sticky issues she was reserved. At one point she had to

check with her boss for an answer. I wondered if she was merely asking her boss if

it was against policy to answer certain questions.

There were a number times that she simply pointed across the hall to

admissions. Indicating that they could answer my questions better.

The basic answers were that Yes RIT gives Merit Scholarships, and that

probably some type of loans and/or work study program would be required.

Mrs. Schuman then told me that if you are eligible for aid you will receive it.

I was not particularly encouraged by her explanations and as I found out later I

as right.

The first thing you have to do is get accepted by the College Admissions

Department. This in itself is another bureaucratic nightmare. I talked to Al Biles

the Assistant Dean of Computer Information Technology and said,

“Just go over to admissions and sign up.”

Well when I got to admissions I paid my fee and waited for three weeks for

a letter that never came. Instead I got a postcard telling me I need to get my GED.

I went back to see Mrs. Schuman.


Rachel  then explained to me that there is a process for obtaining financial

aid. You must first fill out all necessary forms and applications. Then according to

the information you supply you will be assigned a Student Aid Report(SAR). The

SAR will show your Expected Family Contribution(EFC). Then your EFC is

subtracted from the schools Cost of Attendance which gives your FAO the

students Financial need.

Based on my interview with Rachel Schuman it became apparent that I

needed to arrange an interview with admissions. In order to clear up the two

unanswered questions. But, before I left, Mrs. Schuman gave me three applications

to fill out. The FAFSA, the New York State Tuition Assistance(TAP) application,

and the RIT Application For 1997-98 Financial Aid For Continuing Undergraduate

Students. At this point it was becoming very clear to me that there is money

available, but the process is slow and  filled with bureaucratic red tape. I

guess if you want to play though, you might as well play with the big kids.


Shortly after my talk with Rachel Schuman I telephoned Renee Minnich.

Renee Minnich is the Assistant Director of  the Office of Admissions for RIT.

I asked her,”What portion of the most recently admitted class is paying full

Her reply, “Practically nil. Most of our students receive aid. Those that do

are working full time and attend class at night. But they are usually subsidized by


their employers.”

“Do you package preferentially?”

“Yes we have merit based scholarships for outstanding students. But we

attempt to meet the needs of each student individually.”


Well there we have it. The system at RIT is set up as a meritocracy for the

most part. Those students which have proven themselves in High School or are

transfer students have a far better chance of receiving grants and scholarships. The

rest of the students will receive some sort of loan relief. Still others will receive aid

based on their financial situation. The system is complicated and you the student

are at its mercy. Remember also, you must get admitted first before you need

apply for financial aid.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment