For many college students, the financial aid system provides more headaches than support. There is always the complaint that someone gets too much and someone else receives too little.
Most of financial aid is decided by Uncle Sam in the form of a complex little legal form called the FAFSA. Ask any student how this is computed and a blank stare is sure to appear.
UT students from Florida will usually smile about their financial aid package. As with most states, tuition scholarships are usually awarded to those students who continue their education within their state of residence. One example of this is the Florida Bright Futures program. Although if you’re from another state like Alabama and desperately fleeing, you’re almost better off staying home than branching out.
While Florida students get the double bonus of in-state and federal scholarships, international students get neither. Not only are they excluded from Federal financial aid, but the number of school-supplied scholarships specifically to international students is limited.
Then there are the fortunate few who receive departmental scholarships from English departments and within the College of Business, as examples. However, some students switch majors and continue to receive scholarships.
On the whole, the UT scholarship program is not fundamentally merit-based, as the system states. Rather than offer full scholarships to the most qualified students, the Presidential Scholarship ($8,000), which is the highest scholarship at UT, is given to students who meet requirements for GPA and ACT/SAT. But a 1600 on the SAT is as statistically significant as an 1150 on the SAT when it comes to receiving a scholarship.
Fortunately, that does open the door to more students attending UT. Because of this, a large number of students receive a small piece of the scholarship pie rather than the most qualified receiving the largest chunk.
When financial aid at UT confounds the students and they want to know why their piece of pie is cut like it is, a call to the office on the fourth floor of Plant Hall often yields long waits, voicemails and callbacks.
However, it’s not really the employee’s problem. It’s often just a case of a few people overworked in confusing jobs and part of a confusing system whose rules and regulations provide no aid without unnecessary stress. UT should try to make this process a little simpler. The institution should try to provide more opportunities for deserving international students. They should also open opportunities in not one or two departments but every department. Students who work hard deserve to be rewarded. We’re not asking for handouts, just a helping hand