UH considers $1.5M aid plan
The regents could approve a program to give financial aid to B-average students
When new tuition increases go into effect next fall, the University of Hawaii will also raise financial aid to the neediest students.
At its monthly meeting beginning tomorrow, the Board of Regents will consider a new B-Plus Scholarship program. The Legislature appropriated $1.5 million to provide financial aid for Hawaii public school students who maintain at least a B-average in high school and whose families qualify for reduced or free school lunches.
If the regents approve the new program, $500,000 will be available beginning in fall 2006. An additional $1 million is available for fall 2007.
In addition, officials will set aside part of the money from the tuition increase for increased financial aid.
Linda Johnsrud, the university's interim vice president for academic planning and policy, said an estimated $7.7 million in university financial aid based on need, mostly in tuition waivers, will be available next year. That's $2.9 million more than last year.
The university is also seeking $6 million from the Legislature to set up a state scholarship program to convert some tuition waivers to cash scholarships.
The scholarships and university financial aid are aimed at covering the gap between federal money from Pell grants and other financial assistance and the actual cost of tuition, books and housing.
When state Sen. Clayton Hee first proposed the B-Plus scholarship, he estimated that about $4 million a year would be needed to pay for college costs for the first year, $12 million if the program were to cover four years of undergraduate education. Based on state Department of Education estimates, Hee estimated about 800 to 900 students a year would qualify for the program.
But Doris Ching, the university's vice president for student affairs, said it's hard to know how many students will actually go to a UH campus and how much money they will need.
"We're really looking at the first year as kind of a pilot program," Ching said.
The university is estimating about 300 students may be eligible for the B-Plus scholarship. Each scholarship will probably be about $1,600, after federal financial aid is applied. The cost could also be higher or lower depending on whether the student goes to UH-Manoa, UH-Hilo or a community college.
Initially, the new B-Plus scholarships will go to current high school seniors. But Ching said additional funding could allow the university to expand it to students from other graduating years.
The state funding is only through the end of the 2006-2007 fiscal year, meaning that the next Legislature would have to approve more money to continue the program after 2007.
Hee is confident the next Legislature will continue funding. He's also pushing to perhaps double the $1.5 million in the current budget during the upcoming session.
"Should we not provide these kinds of incentives for kids who come from poor families to succeed?" Hee asked. "I would have confidence, given this seed money and the opportunity to measure the results, that this policy will grow and students who otherwise could not afford college, will be given the privilege."