Mysteries of tuition, aid, scholarships solved

School can seem pricey after one sees the bill. Annual tuition increases, several grand for room and board, and the scary truth that those loans have to be paid back with interest can make a student want to cry.

However, there are reasons why tuition is what it is. Efforts made by Eastern staff keep prices competitive, thousands of scholarships are available and student loans can make paying for school more doable.

“Tuition goes up four to six percent every year at most colleges and universities to keep them running properly,” said Janet Long, executive director for student financial services.

Despite this increase, tuition remains cheaper for part-time students than for full-timers.

“The flat rate tuition is a charge for full-time students,” Long said. “This rate is established to account for items available to or used by full-time students including physical space, faculty/library resources, scholarships and grants.

“The part-time rate ($420 per credit) is set up so that our part-time tuition is marketable with other schools. Because part-time students only take one or two classes a semester, they do not use many of the items full-time students do. Another reason for the part time rate is that these particular students do not receive EU scholarships and grants,” she added.

Improvements made to the university account for annual tuition increases. Faculty and staff salary, library publications and computers all fall under this “improvement” category. Big building projects, like the library addition and the soccer field, are possible through fundraising.

“As a religious, non-profit school, Eastern applies for lots of grants for different projects to keep the school running well,” Long said. “We don’t get state appropriations like a state school does.”

One source of frustration among students is the fact that all residents must have a meal plan.

“As far as additional bills go, tuition is too high. I live in an [on-campus] apartment and pay about $1,000 a year for utilities. And yet I still have to pay for a meal plan,” senior Kelly Hughes said.

“We require students who live in apartments to have a meal plan so that they are not walking around campus hungry. Saving money by not eating regularly is not healthy,” Long said.

According to Dave Urban, director of admissions, Eastern’s tuition is comparatively low.

“Eastern’s tuition is about $1,550 less than Gordon, $1,295 less than Messiah and $1,685 less than Cabrini,” he said.

Still, some students find it difficult to pay Eastern’s fees.

“After getting a $2,500 to $4,500 scholarship, a federal and Eastern loan, I still came up short in paying for this semester,” transfer student Tim Hobbs said.

According to Anna Reese, director of financial aid, the hardest part about getting a scholarship is finding one before someone else does.

“Students need to plan early. Find the money first (scholarships) and then look at loans. Aid is first come, first serve,” Reese said.

Reese added that students should stay away from scholarships offered over the web that charge a fee.

“They are most of the time not legitimate that can wind up costing a student over $6,000,” she said.

For students wanting to avoid the interest monster as much as possible, Reese also suggested that churches and any sort of community service organizations would be a good venue.

Two weeks ago, the financial aid office sent a campus wide e-mail listing information on available scholarships.

“I am grateful for loans and scholarships. I came over from India four days before classes began,” sophomore Abraham John said. “I applied for scholarships and got $4,000. I paid for the rest through a private loan called Access Group and can now get a great education.”

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