Why a UMN alumnus called this year’s aid distribution a travesty

Questions that need to be answered. (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

The public forum will begin at 12:30.

Already a regent or two has mentioned potential concern over the level of need-based aid.

Here’s a copy of a letter I received today, one sent by U alumnus Andy Howe to the Board of Regents about the budget and how it divvies up financial aid — something he calls a “travesty.”

I’ve edited out a few personal items.

Members of the Board of Regents.

My name is Andy Howe. I am an alumnus of the Higher Education Ph.D.
program at the University of Minnesota. I have emailed you a few other
times about concerns of low-income students at the University. I have
read the proposed budget for 2014, and I write again with grave
concerns.

I applaud the State’s tuition freeze and modest increase in the state
grant as well as the performance-based funding of graduation of
low-income students. These are steps in the right direction.

The University’s proposed plan to increase merit-based aid to almost
$3,000,000 (which will go to the wealthy) while putting $0 into
need-based aid is a travesty. The increase in the state grant is
virtually absorbed by an increase in university-related fees and
textbook costs, leaving no increase in funds for low-incomes students.
This means that low-income students will at best break even compared
to last year but most like will need to spend more out-of-pocket when
the cost of living is factored in.

The University remains on several reputable ranking organizations as
one of the worst universities for access, affordability, and success
of low-income students. Social mobility should be a priority, given
the responsibility of our land grant, people’s university. Instead,
leadership in undergraduate education is hurting the reputation of all
land grants and public universities because of budget policies like
the proposed 2014 budget.

Here are some questions to ask:

What is the average net price as percentage of annual income for
students from families at $30,000, $70,000 and $110,000 over the past
five years including the proposed merit increase next year?

What is the percentage of increase of institutional merit-based aid
compared to institutional need-based grants over the past five years
including the proposed merit increase next year?

Further, how has the overall average income of families receiving
institutional aid changed over the past five years including the
proposed merit increase next year?

What percentage of merit aid is given to low-income students over the
past five years including the proposed merit increase next year?

What percentage of low-income students get merit-based aid including
the proposed merit increase next year?

Sincerely,

Andy Howe, Ph.D.