UConn Underscores Commitment to Financial Aid

The University of Connecticut is committing at record levels this year to financial assistance, helping students receive a high-quality education at a strong value. The support for students is both need- and merit-based.

A report presented this month to the UConn Board of Trustees outlined the University’s financial aid program in detail, providing the public with specific examples of ways in which UConn has made targeted policy and budget decisions to remain affordable for students and their families.

It’s a commitment being recognized beyond the University: For the past three years, UConn has been in the Top 30 on Kiplinger’s Personal Finance’s list of 100 best values in public colleges.

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In all about 83 percent of UConn students receive some form of financial aid.

“It’s clear that academic rigor and value are the two key considerations that prospective students and parents use when they make their choices about where they’re going to invest in higher education,” President Susan Herbst said. “When you compare the cost of UConn with our competitors, particularly private schools, we clearly represent an economic value. This is a very important commitment on our part and we take it very seriously.”

In all, about 83 percent of all UConn undergraduates receive some form of financial aid.

More than $142 million was included in the current fiscal year budget to aid UConn students through tuition-funded assistance, federal programs, work-study programs, private scholarships, and other forms of aid.

Of that, more than $74.4 million was set aside by the University specifically in tuition-funded aid for need-based assistance and scholarships. By comparison, the 2004 tuition-funded aid budget in those areas was about $32.5 million.

“We want great students enrolling here at UConn at every campus, and part of doing that is helping students meet their economic needs,” Herbst said. “It’s one of our most important responsibilities and priorities.”

To help further that commitment, the UConn Foundation recently announced a new five-year, $150 million fundraising initiative to double the amount of financial support – including merit and need-based scholarships – that the Foundation raises for the benefit of the student body.

Wayne Locust, UConn’s vice president for enrollment planning and management, told trustees during the presentation earlier this month that UConn’s financial aid program is guided by four principles:

  • A “need blind” admissions process, in which a student’s economic circumstances are not considered during the review of their academic qualifications, which keeps the admissions and financial aid processes separate. A student’s financial circumstances never affect his or her chances for admission.
  • A strategic enrollment approach that shapes the admitted class to draw highly talented students from a range of geographic, socioeconomic, and demographic backgrounds, helping ensure diversity in the University community.
  • A commitment to keep students’ financial aid at the same level while they are enrolled if their economic circumstances don’t change. Locust said that helps assure students that their aid packages won’t be cut after their freshman year, which helps students better predict their costs so they can continue at UConn through graduation.
  • A commitment to provide aid to the neediest students first, particularly those from Connecticut.

Students’ financial need is calculated based on a formula set through the federal government in its Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which they must complete before qualifying for financial aid.

That formula considers the direct and indirect costs of attendance, including lodging and books, and the expected family contribution based on income, reaching a final number that is deemed to be the student’s financial need.

UConn is able to use information from the FAFSA application to determine the types and amounts of aid that students are eligible to receive through scholarships, grants, loans, and employment.

The University also has financial assistance programs based specifically on students’ academic merit, although Locust said a large number of those students also qualify for need-based aid.

UConn students are also graduating with less average debt than their peers at both the state and national levels, and among our most needy students – those receiving federal Pell grants – about 78 percent are graduating in six years, ranking it at No. 11 among the top 50 public universities.

“The University is very fortunate to consistently be viewed and accepted by many across the higher education spectrum as a ‘best value,’” Locust said. “This is clearly driven by our high-quality academic experience and the investment that the University makes in supporting our students and their families.”