University News

New aid policies to help low-income students

Health insurance fee waiver, international travel allowance among new UCS initiatives

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Undergraduate Council of Students released details Tuesday on new University policies and programs affecting students receiving financial aid. These revisions  mark the culmination of a process that began with a Corporation focus group in May and continued with the debate, revision and release of the Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan over the last three months.

A UCS email, sent to the student body, listed a number of changes to the structure of financial aid for “high-need” students, classified as those for whom the expected parental contribution amounts to less than $5,000, as well as some geared towards the general aid-receiving population.

“This is a really important step forward in making the Brown experience more equitable for all students,” said UCS President Sazzy Gourley ’16.

The role of student action was emphasized as integral to the restructuring of financial aid policy. “Our peers in First-Gens@Brown, 1vyG, the Brown Center for Students of Color, as well as Residential Peer Leaders, international students and countless others have worked tirelessly to push for increased support for low-income students,” UCS wrote in the email.

The May focus group was “eye-opening for Corporation members and administrators,” Gourley said. A number of action items were introduced during the focus group that came to constitute the new policies, with UCS organizing the follow-up and pitch process to the administration, he added.

Initiatives that will take effect during the 2016-17 school year, some of which have already been released as part of the DIAP and the 2017 budget, include: scholarships to cover University Health Insurance for high-need students unable to waive the requirement; a $1,500 allowance towards travel home for international students; food and housing provision for high-need students during times of University closure; doubling the Campus Life Emergency Fund; and an expansion of the summer vouchers program.

A new position — Assistant Dean of the College for Financial Advising — is also being created. The dean “will advise and support low-income students on financial issues that may intersect with academic, social and personal issues,” according to the UCS email.

The recommendations came from a working group consisting of students and administrators and addressed action items that stemmed from May’s focus group meeting. The working group, headed by University deans and directors as well as student leaders from UCS and other organizations, formulated the changes now slated for enactment.

“The goal was to try to suss out where the gaps in our package were, and to begin to see how we could address them,” said Dean of the College Maud Mandel, chair of the working group.

“We divided the semester into themes that were associated with the basic issue areas in gaps for low-income students,” Gourley said. “We tried to pull in administrators from across campus” that corresponded to the areas of the action items for consultation.

The process to adopt the changes proceeded smoothly given the nature of the administrative procedure, Mandel said. “One of the most gratifying parts of the process was articulating areas of need and addressing them quickly,” she said. “It was pretty rapid for a University bureaucracy.”

UCS also detailed a series of efforts that have not yet been implemented, which they pledged to adopt. These include: coverage of the Summer Health fee for students remaining on campus; small stipends for high-need students to cover extracurricular activities throughout the year; a reduction of the Summer Earnings Expectation for all students receiving aid; and summer earnings waivers for multiple summers.

The SEE is at the top of the agenda, Gourley said. Students are currently expected to contribute $3,100 for each summer, with a fee waiver exempting them from no more than one summer of the expectation.

“It is very difficult to pursue low-paying or unpaid internships over the summer while also having the burden of saving,” Gourley said. “It would be ideal if the SEE could be reduced or eliminated entirely.”

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