State budget problems cause delay in financial aid release

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Students are still waiting for news of financial aid awards. The Office of Student Financial Services decided to delay sending notifications after federal and state budget delays left administrators debating how much aid they could give.

The office usually sends financial aid award notifications through email in late March or early April, said Tom Melecki, director of Student Financial Services. This is the first time the office has had to delay the process.

“We are hoping to send [students] their financial aid notices for the fall and spring terms by July 1,” Melecki said.

Possible Pell grant reductions from the U.S. Congress contributed to the delay.

“Students should receive the same amount of Pell grants for this year as they did for last year, unless their financial situation has improved dramatically,” Melecki said.

English junior Arleen Lopez said she periodically checks for updated information on financial aid, and not having that information has made it difficult for her to plan this year’s finances.

“It’s definitely increased the pressure for me to get a job this summer because usually I have enough money left over from financial aid, enough to survive through the semester,” Lopez said.

She said she is grateful the Office of Student Financial Services did not send notices without adequate information, but she said she hopes to know how much aid she will receive by July 1.

“I don’t think it would be right for them to make us wait any longer because we need to plan our finances accordingly,” Lopez said. “The sooner I know, the better, because I can plan for the summer.”

However, state financial aid is still not finalized because the state’s budget has taken longer than expected to pass. The budget bill is among the legislation being revisited in the special legislative session called by Gov. Rick Perry that began at the end of May. Legislative budget cuts to UT could reach $92 million, according to a University-wide email from President William Powers Jr., and the TEXAS Grant program also faces serious cuts that could drastically reduce the number of incoming freshmen who receive aid.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and a member of the Senate Finance Committee, voted against the budget June 3.

The senator earned three degrees from UT and said her parents “did not pay one nickel.” She said nothing is impossible and students who receive less financial aid should look into getting part-time jobs in their given field, especially on campus.

“I’m very disappointed with the higher education budget. [Education] should be considered an investment, not an expense,” Zaffirini said.