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The University of Michigan will no longer offer the Provost Award, a grant intended to meet full demonstrated need for out-of-state students, beginning with the incoming class of 2024. Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kendra Ishop told The Daily in an email that instead, eligible out-of-state students enrolling for the first time in fall 2020 may receive the new Victors Award, a four-year, $8,000 award per year. 

“The Provost Award was our initial step into providing need-based aid for non-resident students,” Ishop wrote. “The introduction of the Victors Award is intended to continue that commitment while also providing a more consistent and stable award (a 4-year guarantee) to non-resident students.”

The Provost Award meets full demonstrated need for eligible out-of-state students, typically those with an expected family contribution below approximately $11,000, according to Ishop. The Victors Award is need-based with a merit component and provides a flat $8,000 per year and is given in addition to other aid for which a student might qualify.

Students in the class of 2023 and preceding grades will continue to receive the need-based Provost Award if they got it in the past and their financial need is unchanged.

Prospective LSA student Ethan Driscoll, graduating from a Massachusetts high school this spring, said he expects to commit to the University and join the first class of out-of-state students to receive the Victors Award. When Driscoll’s college decision came down to the University of Michigan and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, he said the cost of attendance stuck out to him at a University campus day in Ann Arbor.

“They talked about how really without any aid, the cost of an out-of-state student is a quarter of a million dollars for four years,” Driscoll said. “I think being able to get the Victors Award, it’s not the biggest amount of money but at least it’s something to cut into the big debt that I would potentially be facing.”

LSA freshman Dominic Coletti is an out-of-state student who said the Provost Award is the reason he’s able to attend the University. When Coletti discovered the award’s discontinuation, he met with Tammie Durham, executive director of financial aid and assistant vice provost, and University President Mark Schlissel to discuss the change.

Coletti said the Victors Award will have a higher expected family contribution limit than the Provost Award in approximately the $35,000-$50,000 range, meaning it could attract higher-income out-of-state students not originally eligible for need-based financial aid.

“Originally, you didn’t get any aid once your (effective family contribution) was above about $35,000, and now they say, because we took away meeting need for that lower end, they now have more money that they can allocate to helping people, not at the top end, but just above where financial aid used to cut out,” Coletti said.

According to Ishop, both the Provost and Victors Awards support non-resident students with demonstrated financial need, and that financial need varies for both programs and the individuals within them.

Coletti said he learned while the baseline criteria for the Victors Award is financial need, distribution also involves merit components such as GPA and SAT scores, unlike the Provost Award. He thinks the merit component and the expanded pool of eligible students will make the Victors Award an effective tool for the University to recruit high-achieving high school students.

“I think this will help us be more competitive with a lot of other elite schools and students in that upper-income level,” Coletti said. “They’re often getting into the UCs of the world, as well as probably several Ivies. When private schools especially, like Northwestern or the Ivy League, are giving such good aid packages, it’s a really hard sell to say, ‘Come to Michigan, we don’t have as much money to give you.’ So, I think this $8,000 available to them probably will lead to more of them coming.”

However, Coletti said he worries the discontinuation of the Provost Award could leave families like his, who fall in the middle range of the University’s financial aid range, unable to afford a University education in the future. He said he told Schlissel his family’s expected contribution rose modestly, putting it slightly above the Provost Award limit. His cost of attendance almost doubled rather than a proportional increase.

“That’s not how this system is supposed to work,” Coletti said. “… Listen to individual students in that middle range, who now won’t be able to afford this education for incoming classes. Those aren’t students who were ever going to get in touch with the University, because they’re not going to be here in the first place.”

While Coletti said he believes the change in policy is misguided, he said he sees a lack of communication between financial aid and the student body as the root of the issue, not malicious intent.

“Students who are in the middle (of the financial aid range) need to feel comfortable going up to administration and saying, ‘This is my story, this is how the financial aid package I have influenced my decision to come here,’ because they are very passionate about using that information to inform their policy,” Coletti said. “A lot of times students just get very frustrated with financial aid, because it’s not really clear the rationale behind most of the policy decisions. And I think that there can be a lot of productive conversations that happen if there’s that information sharing going both ways.”

Reporter Calder Lewis can be reached at calderll@umich.edu.

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