Financial help comes in many forms

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Counselors in RIT's Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships can answer questions about paying for college. (Illustration by Carly Schonberg '08)

Note: The most recent issue of RIT: The University Magazine included a package of stories on preparing for college. This story focuses on financial aid.

There are a number of sources and types of money to help pay for college. RIT's Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships helps students and families sort it out.

"The counselors in the office are always ready to help families with questions or financial concerns," says Verna Hazen, assistant vice president and director of financial aid and scholarships.

The office plays an important role in the lives of thousands of students and their families: More than 75 percent of RIT's full-time students receive some kind of financial assistance each year.

RIT has a long history of providing financial support to qualified students regardless of their families' economic circumstances, says Hazen. This year, RIT is providing more than $92 million in institutionally funded assistance to students. That will increase to $102 million for 2009-10.

In recent months, the economic downturn has led to concerns about the availability of college funding. Over the course of the current school year, a number of students have requested and received additional institutionally funded scholarships.

"Many students and parents work very hard to provide for college costs," says Hazen. "In this economy, the need for assistance can be beyond what those families can provide simply by working harder. That's when we need to be able to step in and provide some relief."

RIT helps in several ways:

For undergraduate students, merit scholarships are awarded in recognition of outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements, regardless of a student's financial need. These scholarships are awarded based on a review of information provided to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions as part of the admission process.

For graduate students, many scholarships and assistantships are awarded by the academic department at the time of admission on the basis of academic excellence.

Need-based financial aid is awarded to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate financial need based on information a student and his or her family provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The expected family contribution toward educational expenses is based on a government-approved formula. The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships determines a student's eligibility for RIT, federal and other financial aid programs based on financial need.

In addition, about 8,000 students work at part-time jobs on campus each year and RIT's cooperative education program offers students the opportunity to earn substantial salaries that can be used to help pay for part of their education.

As the financial crisis continues, the picture for state and federally funded aid programs appears relatively stable, Hazen says. The recent Economic Stimulus bill included increases in tuition tax credits for middle income families and an increase in the federal Pell Grant program for students who demonstrate a high level of financial need. Spring 2008 legislation also expanded the availability of federal loans for students and parents.

The bottom line? Financial aid is critical to student success, and scholarship support is more important than ever.

"There is no better way to demonstrate our commitment to students' success than to assist them in financing their education," says James Miller, senior vice president, Enrollment Management and Career Services. "Every gift of scholarship support makes a big difference in the lives of our students."

Information on RIT's scholarships and financial aid can be found at RIT's admission's Web site To see all of the stories on preparing for college, see the online version of RIT:The University Magazine