Budget cuts to affect loans

by Beacon Staff • March 1, 2006

Emerson students may soon find they have fewer loan options due to federal budget cuts to loan programs. A statement on the US Goverment Printing Office Web site reads: "While successful in helping students fund their education . student-loan programs [are] not cost effective or market sensitive.,Emerson students may soon find they have fewer loan options due to federal budget cuts to loan programs. A statement on the US Goverment Printing Office Web site reads: "While successful in helping students fund their education . student-loan programs [are] not cost effective or market sensitive."

The reduction, the single largest cut to federally funded school programs ever made, will also have students facing higher interest rates on federally funded loans, such as the Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) and the Stafford loan, The Wall Street Journal reported in February.

According to Michelle Smith, director of financial services at Emerson, 55 percent of the graduating class last year borrowed at least one federal loan while attending the college. Smith said 398 students currently receive federal Pell Grants.

Seamus Donahoe, a freshman film major, has both a Stafford and a Perkins loan, which are federally funded, and received the Emerson Grant from the college. He finds problems with the politics of both President Bush and Emerson.

"I'm obviously miffed about having to pay this back [with more interest]," Donohoe said. "It's really unfortunate that [Bush] feels that he can spend so much money on things that don't matter and then cut funding to social programs that matter."

Donahoe also said he feels that politics within the school hurt the financial aid program.

"I wish everything wasn't so business-like. It needs to be more personal," he said. "I love Emerson and I love what I'm getting from it, but the administration seems incredibly disconnected from the student body."

Emma Potenziani, a freshman film major, said she also feels that some of the problems lie in the administration. Potenziani, who received a Dean's Scholarship from the college, also has a Stafford loan in her name, while her parents took out a PLUS loan to cover what remained of her tuition costs.

When asked how she would deal with the cuts, Potenziani said, "I'm going to have to pay back these loans someday when I'm struggling for a job and it's hard. I feel like Emerson doesn't do enough for the students. The Honors Program has a scholarship that pays for half your tuition and I think they should make need a basis in admission to the program, not just merit."

The scholarship provided by the program, known as the Trustees Scholarship, is not the only option for Emerson students looking to cover the rising costs of college. The school offers restricted Scholarships, which are awarded to students based on criteria set forth by a set of private donors.

These scholarships are "awarded only to upperclassmen, and each upperclassman is automatically considered for these awards upon completion of their application for assistance," according to Emerson's financial aid Web site.

Emerson Grants are another option, which are given to full-time students who "demonstrate financial need and academic achievement," according to the Web site.

According to Smith, Emerson will continue to provide funding for students, despite federal cuts.

"Emerson is committed to assisting students who demonstrate financial need," Smith wrote in an e-mail. "The College commits over $15 million in institutional funds to financial aid programs and will continue that commitment."

Scholarship Web sites, such as fastweb.com, also offer students a chance to compete for private scholarships not affiliated with the college.

Private loans are a final option for students who are facing cuts in their aid. These loans are taken out through various organizations, such as Sallie Mae and Citibank.

Smith also sees these loans as an option for students who are facing the loss of federal aid but acknowledges the downsides.

"I believe the government cuts to the federal grant programs for the neediest students may force those students to borrow through private loan programs with high interest rates and no consolidation options," Smith wrote.

Anthony Marvullo, a freshman writing, literature and publishing major, said he finds the options offered through Emerson sufficient, though the federal cuts worry him.

"I don't want my parents paying for all of it, because I feel guilty, so I'm just going to have to work it off. Only now, I'll have to work a little harder," he said. "Emerson does a lot. I mean, it's an expensive school to start out with, but I got a decent amount of aid."