University Grants: What we know so far

By Sawyer Pollitt A&E Section Editor

Photo: UMass Dartmouth

FOLLOW THE UMASS DARTMOUTH TORCH FOR BREAKING NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THIS ISSUE

Brought to light at 4:59pm on April 12, by a post on the UMass Dartmouth Black Market, many UMass Dartmouth students were made aware for the first time that changes have been made to their Financial Aid awards as of April 10, 2020.

These changes seem to have affected, most notably, the University Grant, an institutional grant, awarded to undergraduate students, enrolled at least half-time, based on financial need. In some cases, such as with UMass Dartmouth student Brooke Aubin (Psychology, 2020), even the Chancellor’s Scholarship was affected. “…my University Grant is now $1571 (down from $2500) and even my Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship is now $1305 (down from $2500).” said Aubin.

She along with many others have been affected by the changes made to Financial Aid awards for the Spring 2020 semester. These changes were not made with notice given to students, leaving many scrambling to figure out how to deal with an unexpected charge. This new balance, which for some is over the $1,000 hold limit, was discovered the weekend before Fall 2020 enrolment was to begin for students with between 0 and 54.9 credits.

Thais Harney (Nursing, 2023) is one such student, she states that “They took half of my grant and half of my deans scholarship, I now have a balance of over $2000, when it was originally $0 … they gave no warning, not even an email … I have to register for classes tomorrow morning and you usually can’t with a balance over $1000 so I am not exactly sure what to do.”

The changes made to student’s financial aid awards come at a time of uncertainty, not only within the UMass Dartmouth community, but in the world at large. In an email sent by Chancellor Robert Johnson on March 27, 2020 stated that “Resident students that have not lived on campus since before March 9 will receive a 50% adjustment for housing, meal, and parking costs on their accounts for the spring 2020 semester.”

These expected adjustments, as stated in that same email from the Chancellor, would potentially cause additional changes regarding Financial Aid “If your bill was paid with financial aid or a scholarship, the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office will review your account and make any required adjustments, based on the type of aid received.”

The UMass Dartmouth webpage, Frequently Asked Questions – Adjustments, offers further detail as to what kinds of financial aid are affected. “Institutional financial aid including institutional merit awards, scholarships, and grants will not be refunded. Federal, state, and private scholarships, grants, and awards will be refunded to students who show a credit balance on their account after the student account adjustments. Loans, both federal and private, will also be included for refund consideration.”

According to UMass Dartmouth webpages, the University Grant and the Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship are both institutional grants and merit-based scholarships respectively, and as such should not be affected by adjustments made to financial aid awards as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This raises questions as to what influenced the changes made to these two scholarships.

Additionally, when adjustments based on housing, meal, and parking fees have yet to be made, changes to the financial aid awards made to students “who show a credit balance on their account after the student account adjustments.”, cannot be put in place.

In this time of discord and disruption it is important to remain calm, and to understand that everyone, even UMass Dartmouth Administration is under a lot of stress.  There are many moving parts involved in adjusting the balances of students, the staff members making these changes are only human, and mistakes can be expected.

However, the lack of transparency or diligence in this matter, has only increased the stress being experienced by students navigating a global pandemic. Harney also shared her financial situation with the Torch “I only have one person working in my family right now and we have to take care of 7 people in my house, I got laid off, they can’t expect me to pay something that I already paid in full.

The Torch has reached out to school administration and is awaiting a response and statement regarding this matter. However, several students including Lauren Trudeau (History, 2020), and Julia Moeykens (Psychology, 2021) have received responses from the Bursars office stating “We are in the process of adjusting the accounts of students with room and meal plan changes. The room and meal plan will be adjusted down which in turn can affect some of your Aid which will also go down. In the end you will not owe a balance. It should all be completed by the end of this week.”

As of now, the expected date for adjustments to be made to student accounts is still Friday, April 17. More changes may occur between now and then, and the adjustments made to financial aid as of today, April 13, may be reversed or clarified.

There will be a Zoom meeting tonight, 4/13/20, hosted by SGA where this the issue of Financial Aid adjustments will be addressed. If you are interested in attending, please join the Zoom after 6:00PM by following this link: https://umassd.zoom.us/j/92260053499?pwd=dVBKaTBQSmhvdTk2VEM3TWRwVjVUdz09

The UMass Dartmouth Torch recommends that you monitor your COIN account balance for changes and reach out to academic advisors and the proper university staff if a new hold on your account is preventing you from registering from classes in the following days. This story will continue to be updated as more information is discovered, and the situation progresses.

 

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