The Impact of Numbers: SMU Financial Aid
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013 16:03
Education is expensive and cost is a huge factor that affects prospective students’ decisions, especially at a nationally recognized, coeducational university like Southern Methodist University.
Only 28% of the undergraduate students at SMU do not receive aid of any sort, while the majority of the student body is granted some sort of aid. The amount of aid granted could sway any student, considering the estimated tuition costs for the 2013-2014 school year have increased to $55,290 for total tuition fees, expenses, and room and board.
Marcia Miller, SMU’s associate director of financial aid for compliance and reporting, says 2,387 students applied for financial aid in 2007 and 1,627 students were awarded need-based financial aid. In the 2011 academic year Miller says 2,846 students applied for financial aid and 1,902 students were awarded need-based financial aid.
"More students have applied and qualified for aid based on the downturn of the economy. Therefore the rate has gone up," Miller explains.
The total amount of need-based aid granted in 2011 versus 2007 has increased over $20,000,000. The growth rate in aid from 2007 to 2011 was 56.5%, which is a significant jump in percentage terms. The growth rate in tuition over the same period of time was 25.9%, representing a $7,620 jump from 2007 to 2011 academic year.
According to Miller, SMU finds itself comparable to Vanderbilt, Rice, and University of Southern California in terms of financial aid. Using the Common Data Set, which is the standard reporting tool used by all colleges and universities, Vanderbilt’s numbers show a similar pattern but slightly lower growth rates in tuition and aid in comparison to SMU. Vanderbilt’s growth rate in aid from 2007 to 2011 was 41.03%. The growth rate in tuition over the same period of time was 13.81%, representing a $4,988 increase from 2007 to 2011 academic year.
TCU’s aid numbers also show a similar pattern in comparison to SMU. TCU’s growth rate in aid from 2007 to 2011 was 88.53%, which is a huge increase in percentage terms. The growth rate in tuition over the same period of time was 28.25%, representing a $7,600 jump from 2007 to 2011 academic year just $20 less than SMU.
Sophomore Kelsey Thomas is a financial consulting major and Chinese and psychology minor who receives the Hunt Leadership Scholarship, a merit-based award, as well as need based aid, and federal work study aid, and has taken out several federal student loans.
“Financial aid is not strictly loans. There are scholarships and loans and I am able to qualify for certain grants what it cost to go to for a full year. I am grateful for these things,” says Thomas.
Miller says financial aid is harder to come by now because the federal and state governments have discontinued several programs, and due to higher credit standards getting a Parent Plus loan or a Graduate Plus loan is harder than before.
Corbin Nichols, a sophomore, receives financial aid, scholarship money, and student loans. Although all the other schools Nichols applied to were cheaper, he chose SMU for the business school, the campus, Dallas, and the overall networking opportunity.
“Education is an investment at a school like SMU. I know I am going to have loans to pay off versus a state school, but SMU pays good dividends in the future, so the money is worth it. You got to give a little to get a little,” says Nichols.
The growth rate in need based aid did slow considerably in 2011 to 5.51% from a much higher 17.25% in 2010. But, Miller says as the economy improves the need for financial aid will decrease.
“We are now being forced to watch the budget more closely since there are more students competing for the same percentage of dollars,” says Miller.
The question remains, can SMU continue to increase financial aid at the rate it has over the past five years? Knowing that the financial aid budget is capped at 20% of the university’s total tuition and fee revenue, Miller says the only way to continue the growth is to have more contributions from outside sources.
“We have implemented a new scholarship strategy for incoming students this fall. We are hoping this will affect students in a positive manner. Returning students may not see changes in their aid in for 2013-2014 unless they move off campus or their family financial position changes,” says Miller.
Financial aid allows students to attend SMU when it would otherwise be impossible. The numbers and percentages prove that the past economic downturn has affected the need for aid at SMU. It has had to adapt to the changes in the economy and SMU continues to implement changes to adapt to the country’s current economic situation.