By Aaron Guggenheim, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 28, 2013
University Provost Philip Hanlon spoke about financial aid and University affordability to a large crowd of faculty members gathered at Monday’s meeting of the Senate Assembly, the largest faculty governing body at the University.
In his presentation, Hanlon stressed that the University has made and will continue to make an effort to provide enough financial aid to make tuition affordable for its students.
Hanlon said 70 percent of Michigan residents and 50 percent of out-of-state students receive some form of financial assistance. Despite the continuing increase in operating costs, $188 million in grants, $138 million of centrally awarded financial aid and $50 million dollars in federal loans were distributed to students this past year, according to Hanlon.
While the University’s financial aid meets the gap between expected family contributions and the cost of attendance for Michigan residents, the same cannot be said for out-of-state students, Hanlon said.
“We would love to meet the needs of non-residents, but we just don’t have the resources,” Hanlon said.
Hanlon said the University understood the importance of reducing the burden on in-state students in need of aid and aims to keep the school socio-economically diverse.
“We are not where we want to be, but we are working on it,” Hanlon said. “Low-income students are much less likely to apply than higher-income students, even among (those lower-income) students who have strong academic preparation.”
Hanlon noted that many lower-income high-school students don’t believe they can afford a degree despite the fact that the University meets all financial aid needs of in-state students.
“We are not getting the message across,” Hanlon said.
To remedy this frequent misconception, Hanlon said the University has hired a marketing coordinator to educate high-school students on college affordability.
“(College affordability) is a very complex topic … and it is one that is very important to the University,” Hanlon said.
Faculty members asked about affirmative action based on socioeconomic status and about admissions policies that compensated for the ban on race-based affirmative action. Hanlon said the University attempted to recognize the difficulty of growing up in a financially disadvantaged household by giving weight to how well students overcome adversity.
Many faculty members in attendance expressed both enthusiasm that college affordability was being addressed and disappointment that they had known so little about the University’s financial aid initiatives.
Senate Assembly Chair Kimberlee Kearfott, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, said financial aid and affordability had been a staple of many Senate Assembly meetings.
“Many, many Senate Assembly (meetings) have gone off to this topic,” Kearfott said. “This is something we care about.”
Kearfott said she was happy Hanlon had made his presentation and felt that the University is headed in the right direction.
“It is my understanding that the University is fully committed to making Michigan affordable for all in-state students and their policies reflect that,” Kearfott said.
Senate Assembly member Ellen Muehlberger, an assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies, said student perception of an expected kind of lifestyle made the University culturally inaccessible for students of a lower socioeconomic status.
“I identify with students who say Michigan has a rich culture, and it is hard to be a student who is not rich here,” Muehlberger said.
Muehlberger said, for her, the question that remained on the table was how to make the University accessible for students who “have the talent to be here” but may not show it in a traditional manner.
“The things we use to measure merit just reproduce socioeconomic status,” Muehlberger said. “We should do a lot more to make the University accessible not only financially but also culturally.”
Kearfott said the issue of affordability and financial aid would be further discussed in a Senate Assembly meeting in March. That meeting will feature a presentation by Vice Provost Martha Pollack.
“I am very much looking forward to the additional discussions and presentations so we can have a complete picture,” Kearfott said.