Financial aid not falling at St. Edward’s

Government programs and primary and secondary schools around the country are facing sharp budget cuts, but some colleges and universities are feeling the crunch as well.

In a survey of more than 1,000 National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), of which St. Edward’s University is a member, two-thirds of respondents said their financial aid offices were facing hefty shortages.

St. Edward’s, however, falls into the 33 percent of colleges and universities that are not experiencing budget or resource shortcomings.

“One of the distinguishing values of St. Edward’s University is our emphasis on providing high quality service to our students, and for the student financial services office, that includes parents,” said Doris F. Constantine, associate vice president of Student Financial Services.

This is in sharp contrast with the 70 percent of NASFAA survey respondents who said their financial aid office operating budgets have either stayed the same or decreased.

Of those who responded to the survey, 56 percent said their shortages were moderate and only affected peak application periods, while 11 percent said their shortages were severe and impacted everyday activities.

Eighty percent of respondents said that their shortages were permanent, rather than short-term, and would negatively affect their abilities to assist students, including by counseling and target population outreach. Nine out of 10 NASFAA members said these shortages caused the financial aid offices to cut back on reaching out to students to find adequate financial aid.

Most of the respondents to the survey said their resource shortages were due to a greater federal government compliance workload, more students applying for financial aid, lacking operating budgets, and more professional judgments, among other reasons.

However, in addition to these statistics, 90 percent of respondents said the effort put into each student’s financial aid process had increased. This is especially true at St. Edward’s, according to Constantine.

“When a student applies for assistance, he/she must get a prompt response,” Constantine said. “When a student is expecting funds to cover his/her books and rent, the money must be here on time. Phone calls must be answered and not routinely routed to a message machine. Email queries must be replied to.”

To provide these services to its students, the St. Edward’s financial aid office “continually enhances automated systems and revamps internal systems so that staff time is not monopolized by ‘paper-pushing,” Constantine said.

Respondents of the NASFAA survey mentioned a need for more counseling and support staff to keep up with the needs of their students, but Constantine said St. Edward’s is not facing this need at this time.

“I expect we will need additional staff several years from now,” Constantine said. “[The university’s] strategic plan will mean that we’ll be providing services to not only more students, but in a more global environment.”