UMF to make additional $250,000 in financial aid available for incoming students

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FARMINGTON – The University of Maine at Farmington is hoping to send a simple message by making hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial aid available for in-state students interested in applying for the fall semester.

“Don’t say that going to college is impossible,” UMF Vice President of Administration Bill Geller said. “We want Maine kids to go to college.”

UMF has said that it intends the $250,000 in additional funding to be made available to primarily in-state students on a financial-needs basis who are applying to the school for the fall 2009 semester.

According to Geller, the university currently has roughly $12 million available in student aid, with that total including money available through loans, work-study programs and other similar avenues. The $250,000 will appear under a line item in the “education in general” budget, which currently allots $2 million for direct financial aid.

Geller said that the decision to provide additional money for financial aid was made after months of “bad news” on the state of economy, including news of tuition increases, state funding reductions and widespread fear over the state of the loan markets. He said he worries that some Maine families, especially those who have not gone through the process of having a child attend college, may have come to the conclusion that it is simply out of reach.

“It seemed to me that there should be some good news on student aid,” Geller said.

He also said that UMF was committed to allowing access to higher education for as many people as possible. He noted that some general assumptions, from both the public and media, in regards to paying for a college education were not necessarily true at UMF. He cited the discouraging news about the loan market, that students won’t be able to get access to education loans, as one example.

“Our experience here is that students really haven’t had difficulty in securing loans,” Geller said. “We’ve been able to work with people.”

According to the university, between 70 to 80 percent of UMF students receive some form of financial assistance, which can include a combination of scholarships, grants, subsidized and unsubsidized loans and work-study positions. UMF typically employs 800 students. Of the approximately 2,000 students enrolled during the 2007-2008 academic year, 1,414 students received financial assistance with an average award of $8,719.

“It is during challenging times like these that we must affirm UMF’s dedication to providing our young people with the opportunity to become the best they can be,” said UMF President Theodora J. Kalikow, in a statement released by the university. “Investing in our students now is the key to Maine’s success in the future.”

Geller said that the additional financial aid funding will be partially paid for by an anticipated increase in the in-state student tuition rate by as much as 6 percent throughout all seven University of Maine campuses. That system-wide hike comes after dire economic forecasts for the state government’s budget, and the possibly of still more reductions in secondary education funding.

The additional funding will also be paid for through a re-allotment of money assigned for waivers, which the school uses in special cases. Geller said that those waivers had been “over-budgeted” for some time and that some of that money would instead go toward the $250,000.

No special actions are required to make use of the funding. Financial aid assistance packages are set by a federal funding formula after those interested in applying complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. UMF recommends that students complete the FAFSA by March 1, 2009, for best potential financial aid award. This information is shared with individual colleges to determine the expected family contribution and to ensure the equitable distribution of federal student aid.

In addition to filing the FAFSA, students interested in attending UMF will need to apply for admission and are encouraged to do so online by visiting www.farmington.edu/admissions. A $40 fee is required to apply to UMF; however need-based waivers are available on a case-by-case basis.

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