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UA tries to aid low-income students despite budget cuts

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The UA admitted the most diverse freshman class in its history this year, and while some forms of diversity around campus are easily recognizable, others are not.

The Arizona Constitution obligates the state to create affordable higher education in order to help all Arizonans pursue a college degree, no matter their socioeconomic class.

As the cost of in-state tuition rises, low-income Arizonans could be at risk of losing the possibility of attending a public university.

According to reports from the federal government, the percentage of Pell Grant recipients to overall enrollment on campus has remained steady in the mid 20’s over the last five years.

For students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and are from low-income families they can qualify to receive Pell Grants, which is one way to measure an institution’s economic diversity.

The UA’s commitment to admitting a socioeconomically diverse class each year, as laid out in their 1990 Diversity Action Plan is an ongoing institutional challenge according to Rebekah Salcedo, director of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

RELATED: UA's newest class set to be the most diverse ever

This year, 33 percent of undergraduates on campus qualified to receive a Pell Grant according to Salcedo, whose office attempts to provide need-based aid to all incoming UA students.

Salcedo said more than half the students awarded need-based gift aid this year are minorities.

“We recruit and enroll students from all walks of life,” said Kasey Urquidez, dean of undergraduate admissions and vice president for enrollment management and student affairs advancement. “It is important for students to be exposed to, and learn from, a wide variety of individuals. Learning from others is a huge part of what college is all about. In addition, we want to be an accessible university and help educate Arizona’s population and grow the number of people with a bachelor’s degree.”

Salcedo said as tuition rises and outpaces the purchasing power of the Pell Grant, low income Arizonans are at an increasing risk of not completing their college educations or even pursuing a degree in the first place.

She said due to financial instability and other contributing factors, Pell Grant recipients on campus have a significantly lower six-year graduation rate compared with other students.

Fedyst Fomeche, a physiology major, said it’s important to make college affordable so everyone has a chance to succeed.

In order for the university to echo Fomeche’s beliefs, it has to place a greater emphasis on students applying for private financial aid.

“The more [the university] can do to advocate for sources [of aid] that are coming from outside of the tuition stream, the better off all students are,” Salcedo said.

While it’s a continuing institutional challenge to provide aid to all students in need, Salcedo said the UA is continuing to try and provide more opportunities for low-income students to advance their futures.

Salcedo mentioned that the Arizona Insurance Company provides low-income students that meet GPA requirements scholarships, and the Diversity Task Force is currently working on finding more scholarships for students who have been involved with the cultural centers on campus.


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