Student Senate bill clarifies tuition increase

Danny Boyle vs. Guy Ritchie

Story by Breann Schossow

The financial aid portion of the Blugold Commitment now has more concrete guidelines, said UW-Eau Claire Provost Patricia Kleine.
The differential tuition increase, $1,200 phased over four years, which was approved by Student Senate and UW System Board of Regents last semester specified that the financial aid package could not surpass 40 percent of the amount. However, a bill passed at Monday’s Students Senate meeting sets guidelines that require that exactly 40 percent will be allocated towards financial aid. The bill states:

— the financial aid package is set at
40 percent

— three percent of the financial aid package is reserved for financial
aid appeals

— students who are eligible for the Pell grant and students with estimated family contribution below $7,000 are held harmless

Director of Financial Aid Kathy Sahlhoff said that students who are held harmless receive a Blugold grant, equal to the amount of that year’s differential tuition increase. This year, the grant amounts $300. It’s also possible for students with an EFC below $7,000 to be held harmless, as long as funds
are available.

Sahlhoff also said the fund for financial aid appeals is for students who are not held harmless, but experience an unexpected change
in circumstances.

“Those students now will have a small pot of money that we can use to help meet those unexpected needs,” she said.

Kleine said originally the appeals fund was only an anticipated part of the Blugold Commitment. However, the bill preserves the appeals fund, which Kleine said has become a very important part of the differential tuition increase.

Sahlhoff said this year the financial aid office has seen a large number of appeals due to the state of the economy. Historically, there has been a significantly higher amount of financial aid applicants than ever before. Sahlhoff added that she thinks the financial aid portion of the Blugold Commitment is beneficial.

Sen. Jacob Kampen was one of four senators to vote against the bill. He said he didn’t think students should be providing financial aid for other students, especially when the money could be directed toward high-impact projects — the purpose of the increase.

“I have no problem with providing scholarships or grants to help pay for the Blugold Commitment, but that should come through other financial aid,” he said.

Kampen wasn’t surprised when this passed with a 25-4-0 vote. During initial debates before the increase was passed last semester, Kampen said there were long debates and strong support for a large financial aid component.

“I didn’t expect that opinion to switch,” he said, about Monday’s bill. “That’s why we didn’t debate it very long.”

A separate bill presented Monday featured the recommended proposals for 2011-2012. If it passes Senate approval, an estimated $6.6 million of Blugold Commitment money will fund high-impact educational practices, featuring immersion, internship and research projects.

Kampen said he’s excited to see so many, adding that he wishes more could have made the cut, which he said would have happened if money were not allocated to the financial
aid component.

“There were so many proposals that we were able to be very selective,” he said. “There’s some really quality projects.”