Financial Assistance Office sees consistent numbers

Thomas Celona

While students and families nationwide have begun to take on an increased role in paying for higher education, the University reports that both the number of students who receive need-based aid and the percentage contributed by families has remained consistent over the past decade – with Villanova families contributing a significantly lower percentage toward the cost of education than the national average among similar institutions.

According to estimates from the Bursar’s Office, the breakdown of funds received in recent years has been approximately 45 percent payment – whether cash, check or other form of direct personal deposit – and 55 percent aid, consisting of University aid, loans and private scholarship.

The University’s consistency in this area stands in contrast to a national trend that has seen families taking an increased responsibility for paying for a student’s education.

According to a study published last month by the Delta Project, a nonprofit organization which analyzes the costs of higher education, students across the country are paying a rising percentage of the bill.

According to the study, the average student at private colleges offering masters’ degrees paid 83.4 percent of the cost in 2006, up from 80.4 percent in 2002.

The study also reported that students at all types of colleges are now paying an increased percentage after this four-year period.

Students at private colleges offering bachelor’s degrees paid 63.5 percent in 2006, up from 61.1 percent in 2002. Meanwhile, students at community colleges paid 30 percent of the cost – a 6 percent increase – while the share contributed by students at public four-year institutions rose 10 percent to nearly 50 percent.

The Office of Financial Assistance reported similar regularity in its numbers.

“Approximately 60 percent of families are receiving [some type of] aid and 40 percent self-paid,” said Bonnie Behm, director of Financial Assistance. “That has not changed in the last five years.”

The percentage of students receiving financial aid has remained steady despite increases in the cost of tuition.

“Every year, when there’s an increase in tuition, there’s an increase in need-based aid,” Behm said. “[Financial Assistance has] been growing consistent with the increase in tuition.”

The University’s financial aid comes from two sources: the University budget and the University’s endowment.

The University employs a need-blind application process, meaning that financial need is not taken into account when making offers of acceptance to applicants.

Once students are accepted, they are then offered an aid package based on demonstrated financial need.

Financial assistance can play a major role when an accepted student decides whether or not to matriculate to an institution.

“For about 50 percent of the families [accepted to the University], financial aid is playing a major role in the decision,” Behm said. “The family should be looking at its overall financial situation. It’s a major investment. [Financial aid is] probably not the be-all-end-all, but it’s significant.”

While the University’s consistency amid national increases may appear surprising, Behm pointed to the institution’s dedication to meeting the needs of families.

“Villanova has a very strong commitment to need-based financial assistance,” Behm said. “We’ve been very fortunate in that Villanova has been able to keep pace with the families applying, which I think says a lot.”