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Financial Aid

01 Apr Posted by in Business | Comments Off on Financial Aid

A really interesting talk by one of our economists the other night gave me a new angle — or at least, some new specifics — for a problem that simply has to be highlighted: the need for greater-than-ever focus on private sources of financial aid for students at universities like George Mason.

The data were these: unemployment rates stand at 30% for people in the nation’s lowest economic bracket, less than 3% for those initially at the higher rungs. Growing income inequalities have been troubling since the 1980s, and they’re clearly getting worse. Those of us who believe that educational access is or should be an important part of our approach to social issues have to urge attention from those with means, lest new economic woes combined with increasing college costs simply block off a substantial segment of our population.

We know, certainly, that the worst aspect of the higher education end of the state budget now approved for the next two years in the absence of any increase in funds for financial aid. Along with admittedly fairly minor cuts in university funding, which will unquestionably exacerbate tuition increases, this confirms the challenge in yet another way. Even public universities must consider using more of their funds for scholarships, and certainly they must seek every opportunity to encourage outside support.

George Mason has a particularly proud history of accessibility, with a strong record of serving a substantial minority of students first in their families to attend college, with abundant diversity, and with a surprisingly large student segment from families in lower economic brackets. We have some special responsibilities in the growing tension between costs and student means. It’s not surprising that our Executive Committee has agreed that financial aid is our number one development priority over the near term, and our development operation is gearing up accordingly. I can’t claim I think we can solve the problem in the difficult fiscal climate of the next two years, but I sincerely hope we can alleviate it.