Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

University responds to report on financial aid

U-M is stepping up its efforts to attract lower-income students to combat the impression that the university is out of reach for economically disadvantaged families.

“If you are a Michigan resident and you are admitted, the U-M will meet your full demonstrated financial need,” says Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Lester Monts.

Monts was responding to a recently released report that states many public flagship universities, including U-M, “direct aid to wealthy students who will attend college without it. Meantime, many high-achieving minority and poor students wind up in lesser institutions or do not attend college at all.”

“Because of some of the challenges that lower income students face, we need to get the word out that a U-M education is in their reach,” Monts says. “This report is an opportunity for us to get the word out.”

A majority of U-M undergraduate students — about 65 percent — are Michigan residents. The full demonstrated financial needs of students and their families are established by federal guidelines. Aid for students is available in the form of grants, work-study, and loans.

When students from lower-income backgrounds do apply, they are admitted at approximately the same rate as other students, Monts explained. In 2009 the university recorded the highest number of Pell-eligible students on campus, up by approximately 700 students.

U-M is one of 50 schools included in “Opportunity Adrift: Our Flagship Universities are Straying from Their Public Mission,” a report prepared by the nonprofit advocacy group The Education Trust. The study focuses on one university in each state, looking at the performance and success of underrepresented minority and low-income students.

Approximately 78 percent of all U-M students receive some form of financial aid. This year, the Board of Regents allocated $118 million in centrally awarded financial aid. This is the largest investment in central, need-based financial aid in U-M history.

In an ongoing partnership with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the U-M has developed infrastructure to engage high-achieving middle- to low-income students from Michigan’s 31 tribal and community colleges. Over the last two years, teams consisting of people from admissions, financial aid, and the schools and colleges visited each of these colleges.

The U-M Center for Educational Outreach and Academic Success also is working to engage students at earlier ages through partnerships between U-M, K-12 schools and community-based educational organizations.

The great majority of students who enroll at U-M are successful. The graduation rate for underrepresented minority students — 73.4 percent for undergraduate students entering in 2002 — is the highest in Michigan and the fifth best among the nation’s 50 flagship schools, according to the Opportunity Adrift report. The U-M’s six-year graduation rate for all undergraduates entering in 2002 was 88 percent. The university does not track graduation rates by socioeconomic status.

“The gap between underrepresented minority graduation rates and those of other students has closed somewhat, but not enough,” Monts says. “In the past three years, we have redoubled our efforts to reduce the gap.”