Feb 3, 2009

Liberty Gives Back

by Natalie Lozano, News Editor

 In an historic moment last Wednesday, Liberty students celebrated a tuition decrease of more than $500 for the 2009-2010 school year, totaling nearly $6 million in savings to students. Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. made the announcement in convocation and to his knowledge, this is the first time that tuition has been cut since Liberty’s founding.

“It’s a welcome sign,” Executive Director of Financial Aid Robert Ritz said. “It will just take a little bit of the edge off of everything that’s going on.”

The announcement comes in the midst of a national recession, but because of generous donors, Liberty seems to be taking the economic hits in stride.

“Liberty has actually never been in better financial condition,” Falwell said. “God has blessed us and we’re just trying to pass that on to our students.”

Recent history of the school includes the establishment of an endowment fund and the record-breaking support from financial donors.
However, the school has not always been so fortunate. Upperclassmen may remember Dr. Jerry Falwell’s sermons on faith that recalled God’s provision in harder financial days.

“It’s because of the tough times that we have been especially careful to manage our money and to be good stewards,” Falwell Jr. said. “It’s just a way we thought we could help make school a little more affordable.”

Not surprisingly, the reaction to the announcement has been positive, including gratitude from students and parents, according to Falwell.
“I definitely texted my dad right after and he was pretty happy about it,” freshman Tricia Purificato said.

In addition to the tuition cut announcement Wednesday, the financial aid office is working to assist those whose finances have been affected by a parental job loss. The help comes at a time when the national unemployment is at 7.2 percent, according to December statistics from bls.gov.

“If (a student’s parent) has been unemployed for 10 weeks or more, then we can look to see if recalculating their aid eligibility will help them or not,” Ritz said.

Aid eligibility is always calculated in the spring when students complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) and is reflected in the estimated family contribution (EFC). If a student’s EFC is lower than the cost of tuition, students are often eligible for federal grants and low interest loans.

Recalculating the EFC mid-year could make a significant difference in a student’s aid, depending on how much the unemployed parent or guardian contributed previously.

In another means of helping students, the financial aid office is encouraging potential graduate students to contact their state representative as the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG) is up for removal from the state budget.

If the VTAG is cut, only future grad students would be affected, not those who have already begun receiving grants from the state, according to Ritz. An easy way for students to contact their local representatives is available at www.capwiz.co/cicv.

Although the tuition cut does not take effect until Fall 2009, Liberty Dining recently lowered the cost of eating on campus. Sodexo’s help takes the form of a five percent discount at eateries like the Keyhole, the Corner Pocket and Jazzman’s, which is taken off the total cost for students and staff who purchase food with meal points.

“Times are tough economically, and we know that students and our faculty and staff aren’t exempt from those hard times,” Resident Marketing Manager for Sodexo Elizabeth VanWingerden said. “Five percent may not seem like much, but it is just one way we are trying to alleviate financial hardship. However we can help, we’re going to try.”

Next year’s incoming freshmen also have the benefit of a special financial program held at Liberty, called Within Reach And Personal (WRAP). The sessions exist “to promote and educate students on the affordability of private colleges in the state of Virginia,” according to Student Advocate Jeanne Noonan.

WRAP is just one example of how the Student Advocate Office (SAO) assists students. For details on SAO’s other functions, see the sidebar to the right.

To complete the 2009-2010 FAFSA, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Contact Natalie Lozano at
nalozano@liberty.edu.

 


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