In Slow Economy, College Will Still Provide Financial Aid

St. Mary’s College of Maryland recently set up a $105,000 Emergency Financial Aid Fund to help alleviate the financial burden of students whose economic situation may have changed as a result of the current economic recession.

With a financial aid budget of $5.3 million in 2009, St. Mary’s spends 8 percent of its $64 million operating budget on both need-based and merit-based scholarships for students. According to Tim Wolfe, Director of Financial Aid, “65 to 67 percent of students on campus receive financial aid.”

Wolfe said, “a lot of families have lost their job and their investments have gone down,” and in response, “students and alumni raised money for a financial aid program.” Students can now apply for small grants from the $105,000 fund to help cover immediate costs. “It’s not a lot of money, but we are helping students in a short period of time to balance their books,” said Wolfe.

The majority of the fund came from a fundraising appeal at the end of last year and a donation from the SGA last semester.

It is not just current students who are feeling the crunch of tough economic times, Admissions has seen a shift in applicants. “The two demographics that dropped the most are out-of-state students and first-generation college students. Both of those I tie directly to the state of the economy,” said Wes Jordan, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.

“It’s a very serious situation that families are facing,” said Jordan, but the situation is just as serious for the College. As a result of state budget problems, he said, “the state has cut [the College budget] several times” and yet “the amount of money that the College will put into financial aid will remain the same as it has been, and that is quite an accomplishment because everything else has shrunk.”

Historically, the College has increased the overall financial aid budget by the same percent that tuition increases. According to Jordan, “[the College] doesn’t know if that will happen but I predict that it will at least be the same as this year.”

“It’s too early to tell” if the College will meet its fundraising goals for the next financial year, according to Karen Raley, Class of ’84 and Director of Annual Giving. The development office began their annual phone-a-thon last Monday and set an “ambitious” goal of $55,000.

The phone-a-thon, which reaches out to parents and alumni, has been very successful in the past but the Development Office is also trying new methods to raise revenues. “[The Development Office] has invested in technology that allows people to donate as little as a penny,” said Raley.

Raley is also reaching out to students for the first time. She asks students to make a donation if they can or commit to make a donation after they graduate. “They were pretty excited for the oppertunity to be asked,” she said.

With the phone-a-thon in progress and a year end appeal, written by Jordan, around the corner, Raley is “hopeful” that the development office will meet its fundraising goals and the rising need on campus.

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