For many students, the search for financial aid can be a daunting, if necessary and unavoidable, task. With rising tuition payments and an increasingly independent lifestyle, students often find that access to scholarships, grants and loans is critical to their success and well-being in college.
""Seventy-five percent of university students, including grad students, get some kind of financial aid,"" said John Nametz, director of student financial aid.
Nametz said that UA students are very competitive among students in Arizona, and one of the missions of the Office of Student Financial Aid is to find ways to increase this competitiveness.
""Right now, UA students are 66 percent more likely to get more money than (Arizona State University) and (Northern Arizona University) students,"" Nametz said. ""We get 166 percent of the combined ASU and NAU average.""
One way this mission is being carried out is through the development of a new project that will allow students to compete for scholarships more effectively. The OSFA will soon make available a program that will allow students to not only search for scholarships in a more accessible way, but will also allow them to re-use the essays they have already written in the university application process.
""They can receive anything from foundations to individual aid. The project will get students aware of scholarships and encourage them to apply,"" Nametz said. ""We will create a system and template that will allow students to find scholarships, and we want to make sure that questions asked in admissions are similar to those asked by scholarships and donors, so that way, we can allow students to compete more effectively.""
The project is funded by a $20 student services charge that every student pays. The fee goes to programs that are outside the norm of typical college services.
But some students have found that the financial aid process hasn't always been easy for them.
""I knew that I had to fill out a FAFSA, but their decision-making process was difficult to deal with in a lot of ways. They're just kind of cheap,"" said Casey Thurston, a family studies and human development senior. ""My mom lost her job and has two kids in college, and they gave us zero.""
Nametz emphasized that money can come not only through the typical scholarship or loan route, but can be received from less typical sources, such as through foundations and private donors. The OSFA's task, Nametz said, is to channel these multiple sources and provide students with easier access to them.
""We get money from everywhere you can imagine,"" Nametz said. ""From somebody's grandmother, federal grants and loans, we do it all. Everything goes through us.""
But in the end, receiving money sometimes comes down to simply being proactive and making many contacts.
""The biggest mistake would be being negative. The biggest mistake would be to not look into it,"" Nametz said. ""There is a lot of fiscal support here for students, and not just at the Financial Aid Office, but with professors, administrators and faculty in general - all can help you. The more contacts you make on campus, the more likely you will do well here.""