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Iowa universities see more financial-aid appeals

BY KELLIE PETERSEN | FEBRUARY 15, 2010 7:30 AM

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As a faltering economy continues to affect college students and their families, more Iowa college students are appealing the results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Families may request an appeal brought on by such circumstances as job loss, a reduction in hours, loss of untaxed income or benefits, and separation or divorce.

Catherine Wilcox, a senior associate director of the Office of Financial Aid, said the UI had received many appeals from families who worked in industries severely affected by the recession, such as automobile manufacturing, real estate, and construction. The financial-aid decision is based on the previous year’s family income.

Iowa’s unemployment was 6.7 percent in December 2009, the most recent data available.

“We did see the trickle-down effect,” Wilcox said.

All three of Iowa’s regent universities saw an increase in financial-aid appeals this year.

At Iowa State University, 522 families requested appeals for the 2009-2010 school year — up from 416 appeals the year before. At the University of Northern Iowa, the number jumped to 305 from 200. Wilcox did not have an exact number of UI appeals.

While the federal government provides some guidelines for appeals, the exact process is determined by individual institutions, Wilcox said.

UI families can appeal with forms explaining their financial situation. The forms are reviewed by a financial-aid officer, who decides if the appeal should be granted, Wilcox said.

Appeals at UNI are also reviewed by one of three full-time financial-aid officers, and collectively in some more complicated cases, said Tim Bakula, an associate director of Student Financial Aid.

Student employees help gather background information but do not review the requests, he said.

But at ISU, a panel of three financial aid officers review each appeal, said Roberta Johnson, the director of Student Financial Aid.

She believes having a group review the appeals is beneficial.

“It’s helpful that people are bouncing ideas off each other to maintain consistency,” she said.

In addition to more appeals, the UI also saw more financial-aid applications from families this year than in previous years, Wilcox said.

But some students are unaware that it’s possible to request an appeal.

UI junior Evan Larson said he didn’t know that families could request appeals, but he thought they would be beneficial to students.

“If it’s available, it should be sufficiently advertised,” he said.


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