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 Tuesday, March 11, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


Going the extra mile to help students afford higher education
By Linda Besen, Publications and Creative Services

In academic year 2006-2007, over $224 million in grants, scholarships, work-study and loans was awarded to more than 17,000 CU-Boulder students. Financial Aid Director Gwen Pomper said increased institutional aid, as well as several new federal programs such as the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant have benefited CU students.

Thanks in large part to the unflagging efforts of the Office of Financial Aid and the CU Foundation, CU-Boulder this year unveiled the largest increase to institutional financial aid in its 130-year history. According to Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson, "The $6.6 million allocation in fiscal year 2007-2008 is far and away our largest one-year financial aid increase ever, and indicative of our commitment to being accessible to Coloradans regardless of their income level."

One of the responsibilities of the Office of Financial Aid is to act as an advocate for students. "We closely follow federal and state legislation to ensure that we provide input into proposed changes and can act as advocates for our students," Pomper said. "After legislation passes, we analyze how to implement the regulations so that students can fully benefit." For example, last year when the federal government began the new grants, institutions were only required to review students who self-reported their eligibility. The financial aid office made the decision to review its own data to seek out students who might qualify. They found significantly more students who qualified once they were made aware of the program.

The Office of Financial Aid strives to keep student loan debt as low as possible. For Stafford and PLUS loans, CU-Boulder participates in the Direct Loan (DL) program and has done so since the inception of the program in 1994 (CU was a pilot school). The advantage of the DL program is that the funds for loans come directly from the federal government (via the financial aid office) and the federal government is the sole lender. Loans are never sold, so students and parents are assured one place for repayment and servicing of their loans. Additionally, there is no financial incentive to the financial aid office to grant a loan to a student in the program.

Financial aid programs are highly regulated by both the federal and state governments. The Office of Financial Aid is audited annually by an external auditor to ensure compliance. "In our most recent audit," said Pomper, "we received the best possible report of having no audit findings."


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