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Throughout the last week, University of Michigan students opened their inboxes to financial aid notices coming later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both students and parents described aid packages that were vastly below their expectations and represented a net increase in their cost of attendance compared to last year in Facebook posts. The outcry over aid stands in stark contrast to the June 29 Board of Regents meeting where they noted many students would receive financial support after approving a tuition increase by 1.9 percent and expanded budget.

“Our financial aid commitments ensure that a UM degree is in reach for all families in the state of Michigan,” the budget narrative said. “The FY2021 budget recommendation includes a 5.6 percent increase in the undergraduate aid budget to ensure we can cover our aid commitments for all who qualify for the Go Blue Guarantee and other need-based aid.” 

In comparison to FY2020, the tuition for in-state undergraduates was raised by the same amount, however this year’s 5.6 percent budget increase was smaller than the 11.2 percent increase.

Some students receiving the University of Michigan Grant and Provosts’ Award were shocked by the numbers they saw in their aid notices. LSA senior Sarah Garcia was among those disappointed with the awards, saying that she received less financial aid this year than last even though her family’s income went down.

“My tuition definitely was increased,” Garcia said. “And it’s also interesting because my dad retired, so my parents’ income definitely went down, also. I feel like my parents’ income and what I put for FAFSA has just gone down since I started at the University. It’s interesting because my first three years I received no financial aid and then last year … the financial aid covered all of it, and this year I’m back to no financial aid, so it’s kind of confusing.” 

She said through her position as the vice president of finance for Ann Arbor’s co-ops, she has observed that more students have expressed financial concerns this year than last year.

“It seems across the line, everyone’s got significantly less money,” Garcia said. “It’s just very bizarre; I’ve seen emails about people submitting their financial aid … to help them to be able to live in Ann Arbor, and it’s shocking just seeing the difference of the numbers.”

Garcia added that while she has not heard of any students’ financial aid increasing this year, she has heard students receiving the HAIL scholarship generally saw their aid remain unchanged from last year.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the replacement of the Provost Award with the Victor Award was the most significant change to out-of-state aid, and there were no changes in the calculation of families’ needs. 

LSA junior Alysa Gould said she was frustrated by the aid amount and inability to get in touch with the financial aid office.

“The one complaint I have with them is I can’t get in contact with them,” Gould said. “Luckily my questions were ones that can be answered over email, so I emailed them, but I still haven’t heard back from them either … I called around every day, at various times whenever I could find the time to, and I always had to go through the pre-recording, and then once you go to wait for somebody, (the system) will be like, ‘It’s full. Call again next time.’”

LSA senior Emma Muth echoed Gould’s sentiments, noting that an incident where her information was incorrect would have gone unnoticed had she not been able to reach the office.

“In my case, it took me a while to get in touch with financial aid,” Muth said. “The first couple calls I tried to make, they were like, ‘Sorry,’ essentially saying ‘Everyone’s busy.’ Once I finally got through, I found out that somehow some of my information was incorrect … so I’m in the process of getting that corrected, so I don’t actually know what my updated financial aid will be.”

Muth expressed concern about the lack of options she felt she had and said she felt helpless.

“With any kind of backup plan, I … don’t have a ton of time, even to look into my first option, (taking) my credits to U of M-Dearborn,” Muth said. “(There is) that feeling of almost powerlessness, where I have no way to get to the people who really matter and who can do something about this. I can talk to my advisors, I can talk to my professors, but they can only do so much, and they can’t change my award letters, and they don’t have the answers for why the financial aid package was so drastically different.”

Daily Staff Reporter Dominic Coletti can be reached at


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