Each fall, I write to you with updates about Union and our admission and financial aid efforts. I trust you received my earlier correspondence, sent electronically in August, with the most notable news about Union adding Early Action as an application option for this cycle. I am reaching out a second time with more news, just announced at our opening Convocation.
In response to the growing cost of higher education and the relative stagnation of salaries and wages since 2007, Union is repurposing some of our merit scholarship resources to create a new scholarship, the Making U Possible Grant for Families, to help additional families finance a Union education.
- Making U Possible is designed for admitted students for whom the financial aid formulas are too aggressive in assessment, previously precluding these students from attending Union. Under this initiative, students who just meet or narrowly miss aid eligibility as determined by the formulas will be guaranteed $20,000 or $30,000 minimums in aid.
- Union’s primary commitment remains to meet the full financial need of all students we admit, with more than 85 percent of our $53 million scholarship budget committed to making Union a reality for students across the socioeconomic spectrum. This year, over 50 percent of our incoming class received need-based aid, with an average need-based scholarship of $38,535 and our largest such award in excess of $66,000. We are proud that 24 percent of our first-year students are first-generation, Pell-eligible or both. We are not re-routing any need-based aid to the new program. As always, to apply for need-based aid, families must submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile.
- Union will continue to offer merit scholarships to our academically strongest applicants. We will target annual awards of $15,000-$20,000 to roughly the top 15 percent of each incoming Union cohort.
Our new program is intended to remove financial obstacles for some families, to address some of the limitations of the formulas and to help students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds afford a Union education.
The initiative is particularly relevant to families with annual incomes ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 (dependent on assets). The $30,000 minimum guarantee is targeted for families that approach a $50,000 Expected Family Contribution per the formulas. The $20,000 guarantee is for those with an EFC between $50,000 and $90,000.
We understand that the methodologies to determine need-based aid have limitations. These include a heavy reliance on home equity – an illiquid asset – to determine ability to pay for college, and consideration of the number of children in a family, even if they will not be enrolled in college at the same time. In addition, many families carry debt obligations that are largely ignored in the formulas. Making U Possible means fewer families will need to borrow money to cover portions of their expected family contribution, lowering the debt burden all around.
With this initiative, we hope to partially address the growing barbell effect that is happening on college campuses nationwide, with very wealthy students on one end and those receiving full or almost-full scholarships on the other. Many families that are earning a decent income, but have expense and debt obligations, have increasingly limited choices to cover the cost of higher education.
Students will have to apply for need-based aid to be eligible for such awards. A new Quick Cost Calculator with only seven questions is being created to give a fast estimate, which will complement the more comprehensive Net Price Calculator. Both will be available on our website in early October.
The new grants will be part of Making U Possible: The Presidential Initiative for Scholarship and Immersive Excellence created last fall. The initiative ensures that talented students from all backgrounds not only can afford a Union education but also are able to take full advantage of opportunities in and out of the classroom. This includes providing financial assistance to allow students to participate in mini-terms, terms abroad, internships and pre-orientation programs.
I hope this news is interesting to you and some of the families you serve. As always, I welcome continued conversation on this initiative, our addition of Early Action or any of our other admissions and financial aid programs. Like you, we hope to help students identify and attend a college where they will thrive. We know that for some, Union can be that place.
Matt Malatesta ‘91
Vice President for Admissions, Financial Aid and Enrollment