UA sees noticeable increase in grant aid to students

by Michelle Saport  |   

University of Alaska students are filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, in record numbers, resulting in a marked increase in need-based Pell Grants awarded to Alaskans.

Pell grants at UA nearly tripled in six years, from 4,035 grants valued at $8.9 million in 2007 to 7,848 grants valued at $25.8 million in 2012. In Alaska, more than 90 percent of Pell grant recipients who are dependent students enroll in a four-year institution-the highest percentage in the nation. Students currently can receive up to $5,645 a year in Pell grants depending on family resources.

There's no doubt UA is a great value with the second-lowest resident tuition in the country. UA President Pat Gamble and the Board of Regents have made it a priority to minimize tuition increases while maintaining quality. In addition, the State of Alaska is strongly committed to UA through its financial and public support.

Yet, all post-secondary job training or college still costs money. Full-time university tuition and fees ranges between $5,200 and $7,200 a year.

The FAFSA is a UA student's best friend, providing access to federal need-based aid such as the Pell grant, some merit-based assistance and privately funded scholarships.

Increasing FAFSA participation has been a major goal since 2007. The "February FAFSA Frenzy" encourages students to fill out this form, raising awareness with drawings, contests, fun events and workshops. Also supporting increased FAFSA submission rates are the Alaska Commission on Post Secondary Education's College Goal Alaska and UA/ACPE's College Application Week.

"These efforts are clearly working," said Saichi Oba, associate vice president for students at the UA System. "Since 2007, the number of FAFSAs submitted per UA full-time student equivalent (FTE) has increased by 53 percent. The overall number of FAFSAs submitted increased 69 percent. UA students are increasingly recognizing the value of the FAFSA in financing college."

Another goal of the financial aid outreach campaign is to increase the number of FAFSAs submitted early, between January and March. UA now receives 45 percent of FAFSAs by the end of March, a 25 percent increase over prior years. These early students receive early award letters. Early awarding encourages early decisions, and enables students to connect earlier to the campus they will attend.

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