Who is getting more of a financial aid boost out of next year’s University of Minnesota budget?

Merit, not need. (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

The last post looked at some tuition-and-fee highlights of the upcoming FY2014 budget.

But what about financial aid?

The document shows an interesting split: merit-based aid gets a $2.9 million boost, while the Promise Scholarship, the U’s institutional need-based aid program, gets nothing.

More specifically, the merit aid boost includes $2 million for merit-based recruitment aid, $857,000 for the 21st Century Scholarship program and the Presidential Scholarship Match program, and $55,000 for an expanded national recruitment program.

At the moment, the budget document states, the $30 million Promise Scholarship program could serve more than 13,000 low- and middle-income families. Award levels will stay the same because of the tuition freeze, and current funding for the program should be enough to support it.

I wasn’t able to contact CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter this afternoon to ask why the U has chosen to boost merit aid but not need-based aid, considering all the concern over college access for low-income students. (A U spokesman did not contradict my assessment of the split.)

The U’s budget report says this:

“In 2012-13, Promise scholarships were increased approximately 14 percent. Given the ability to hold resident undergraduate tuition increases to 0 percent, there is no proposed increase in the Promise program for FY14. “

The report also referred to the state’s 15 percent increase to the Minnesota State Grant Program, the state’s main source of financial aid. It estimated that the average increase for grant holders would be $718 per year, or about 6 percent of the tuition rate for resident undergrads at the Twin Cities campus.

“Between this increase in the State Grant Program, the freezing of tuition at last year’s levels, and the maintenance of the University’s Promise program, approximately 11,000 University of Minnesota students will see an effective tuition decrease next year.”

I have a feeling the U might take a little heat about this at the public hearing. Meanwhile, I’ll try to get a little more info behind the reasoning.