Lost in transition: College loses $2.2 million in state-based aid over two years

Recently North Carolina state legislators eliminated the state’s current student aid program for private colleges and universities. The sudden cut will affect student financial aid at Guilford College by $2.2 million over two years while a new, centralized need-based system is put in place. The college had originally budgeted for around $770,000 in cuts.

Kent Chabotar, president and professor of political science, told The Guilfordian that his office and senior staff are discussing how much of the loss will be replaced with college institutional funds during the upcoming 2012–2013 fiscal year.

“With a small endowment and a tough economy, almost every dollar added to grant aid will have to come from somewhere else in the budget, meaning budget reductions in almost every department and program,” said Chabotar.

Chabotar said that whatever must be changed from the various budgets will be reviewed by the campus budget committee before being finalized and recommended to the Board of Trustees.

“Throughout this process, which will extend from the spring semester into the summer, we will aim for transparency and expect to keep the college community informed about trade-offs and decisions, as we have done in every budget cycle since at least 2002,” said Chabotar.

Greg Bursavich, vice president for finance, said that his office was not yet sure how the budget cuts would affect programs and departments at Guilford.

“Unfortunately, we do not have any answers yet, but we are doing everything possible to minimize any impact on our students,” said Bursavich.

The North Carolina General Assembly has provided funding since 1972 for North Carolina students attending the state’s independent colleges and universities.

The now eliminated program offered residents of NC who were enrolled three-quarters time a $1388 Legislative Tuition Grant and those enrolled full-time a $1850 Legislative Tuition Grant. The College also received $1350 per full-time student, as of the tenth day of fall classes, to be awarded to NC students, at the college’s discretion, with demonstrated need.

Hope Williams, president of North Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities, explained some of the cuts to The Guilfordian.

“The reduction in funding for the state grants was a total of 21.5 percent from $104 million over the two year 2011–13 budget biennium,” said Williams. “This was the same percentage cut that was made in the aid program for UNC students.”

Changes made by North Carolina legislators are very concerning to some, like senior art major Adam Watkins.

“The financial aid system is already a very flawed, sketchy system from what I have experienced at Guilford,” said Watkins. “Cuts like this hurt the students way more than (they) help.”

Others, like senior theatre major Kieran Brackbill, think the government should not cut spending on education and educational institutions at all.

“I’m dismayed that Guilford in particular will be receiving the $2 million cut,” said Brackbill. “State spending towards national defense, security and the military ought to be drastically cut back instead.”

Chris Mackey, press secretary to North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue, told The Guilfordian that the governor was as concerned as Brackbill and Watkins about the cuts.

“Standing up for education is the right thing to do and should not be punished,” said Perdue in a Jan. 3 press release. “We all owe it to our children and our state to stop these cuts and make education a priority again.”

Though Perdue expressed common dissatisfaction, the new legislative need-based program continues on.

The responsibility of the new aid program was given to the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, which will distribute the fund instead of colleges.

Steve Brooks, executive director of the NCSEAA, told The Guilfordian that these financial changes were bound to happen.

“From a public policy standpoint, changing over to a centralized system that addressed a student’s actual need instead of being so generous with our grants was necessary,” said Brooks.

Brooks said his office went around the state and met with financial aid offices to find a way to help students with financial need during this transition. However, his office will not know the full financial implications of the new program until the fall.

“Our program will be much like the Federal Pell program, only we aren’t able to borrow the money like the Feds do should our allocation not be enough,” said Brooks.

With these looming changes and adjustments at hand, Chabotar looked at the financial upside once the NCSEAA program begins.

“While under the new need-based program, most North Carolinians at the college will see their state grant aid reduced, (but) over 100 students will receive more state grant aid rather than less,” said Chabotar.