Struggling Students Seek Financial Support


Published: November 20, 2008

In the face of the current economic crisis, students are grappling with the cost of college life and expecting Fordham to bridge the gap. Many students are shopping smart to save money, appealing for additional financial aid, graduating early and considering transferring.

College students feel the pressure of the current economic turmoil. (Kisha Claude/The Observer)

According to a recent e-mail sent to all students by Student Financial Services (SFS), “Fordham has established a financial aid reserve to assist students who are in danger of interrupting their studies for financial reasons. The University is committed to do all we can to alleviate the impact of the economic downturn on students and their families. Assistance may include a combination of grant aid, loans and payment plans depending on individual circumstances and resources.”

Peter Stace, vice president for enrollment at Fordham, said the message was disbursed to students because “even in a robust economy, many families find it difficult to finance the cost of private higher education for their [children]. The economic downturn is adding to the hardships for those families and creating new challenges.”

Stace affirmed that this policy is not new, however. “There has always been a process in place for students who experience a sudden change in financial circumstances to request aid for the first time, to seek reconsideration of their existing financial aid award and also to receive assistance in identifying other ways to meet expenses. The e-mail… brings attention to it at a time when it may be especially helpful.”

He continued, “We want to make it clear that funds are available.”

Mathew Rodriguez, FCLC ’11, noted the e-mail and agreed with the move on Fordham’s part, saying, “It’s the university’s job…to have a face out there…[and] to reach out [to students], rather than to wait for FAFSA and that time of the year.”

Stace said, “The university is committed to helping as many students as we can to continue their studies at Fordham uninterrupted, and we encourage them to reach out for assistance before reaching any decision on transfer for financial reasons.”

He went on to say that he has not witnessed a large number of students transferring for financial reasons as of late because “we are in the middle of a semester for which expenses have already been paid,” but he noted that “there has been a substantial increase in the number of students contacting Student Financial Services for assistance. This is always a busy time as students initiate contact to resolve financial holds on registration, but the level of activity is higher than usual.”

One Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) student, who wished to remain anonymous, said he wished Fordham that had made more of an effort to reach out to help students with financial troubles earlier.

In regard to the email, he said, “I was already in that boat,” and that he had taken out a “significant” loan over the summer to cover his expenses. “Fordham isn’t cheap,” he said. “Had I waited [for SFS to reach out], I probably wouldn’t be here.” He went on to say, “Obviously, [Fordham is] not giving enough to the people that already need it. With my estimated family contribution and what Fordham originally gave me in aid, something is not clicking with them.”

When asked what more Fordham should be doing for its students, one student said Fordham should “reevaluate how much they charge for [activities fees], then increase institutional aid opportunities, like scholarships…shifting funds from scholarships that people rarely use to more practical ones.”

Ryan Murphy, FCLC ’11, acknowledged the plan for the “extremely strained” but said, “For the rest of students that are simply having to cut back, I think more needs to be done…we do pay for the school’s services and I think schools need to realize that.”

Stace said, “Students and their education are our top priority in this challenging economy, and that means enabling them to continue their studies whenever circumstances allow and ensuring that our faculty and staff are here to provide and support that education.  It may mean less money will be available for other activities that are less central or that can be deferred.”

Rodriguez agreed that the school should reconsider spending but focused on different points. As the secretary of United Student Government (USG), he is the chairperson of the Student Affairs Committee, and he said that he had hopes of raising the student activities fee to increase programming on campus. “That has become harder because of the economy. We have to be conscious [now],” he said.

Daniela Hess, FCRH ’11, offered a different perspective. “There’s not much that Fordham can do to help, really. They already give scholarships to a huge number of students, and giving away more money would probably be detrimental to the quality of Fordham’s services. If anything, they should help students find good loans.”

It’s not just financial aid and tuition assistance that students are seeking in light of current economic conditions. Some, like one sophomore, are cutting costs elsewhere.

“The food [in the cafeteria] is not cheap. Going in there to buy food throughout the day got too expensive,” he said, explaining that he now goes grocery shopping to save money.

Murphy, a commuter, said, “I have actually begun to bring in my lunch like a third grader simply so I do not have to pay so much for food.”

Other students are also considering graduating early. There are a growing number of high school students taking community college classes for college credit, according to a recent article in Business Week. Currently, Fordham does not accept credits earned during high school unless the course is taught on a college campus and with a predominantly matriculated college student enrollment.

Fordham does, however, accept the College Board Advanced Placement (AP) exams for credit, accepting scores of three or above for either core or elective credit, depending on the course. This has helped a lot of students get ahead on their credits. Brian O’Connell, who entered Fordham with 15 credits, said he thinks that Fordham could help students out by “accepting more AP courses as core credits, like AP Psychology, so that people who are interested could consider graduating early.” He also said he wishes Fordham was “more definite on their stance of what is or isn’t accepted [for credit],” saying that the policies are “unclear” and “confusing.”

Megan Branch, FCLC ’11, who said she is “basically paying for Fordham on [her] own” and therefore feels the “pull of the [financial] crisis,” said, “I have definitely thought about graduating early. I still might; but for now, I’m picking up another major…”

As a word of advice to struggling students, Rodriguez said, “When it comes to college, even with the economy, one thing people have to realize is that there is always someone out there willing to pay for your college education.” He cited loans, scholarships, and other grants. “I would never let a money situation impede me from [going to] a school that I wanted to go to.”