Nevada University Administrator Cites Financial Aid 'Crisis'

A top Nevada university official is labeling tighter restrictions on financial aid and a drop in the percentage of eligible students using Nevada's Millennium Scholarship program as a "crisis" in the state's education program.

"I'm telling you, we have a crisis in financial aid," Nevada System of Higher Education system Vice Chancellor Jane Nichols told the university Board of Regents on Thursday.

Nichols said the amount of student aid given to college students in Nevada dropped last year from the year before, and said rising tuition and lowering financial aid could be blocking college enrollment statewide.

Nevada System of Higher Education regents took no action on Nichols' call to lobby legislators for more financial aid for college students, and took up proposals to raise tuition at Nevada's seven higher education campuses starting in the fall of 2009.

Regents will vote on whether to accept the increases at their meeting in April.

In some schools, the results could be dramatic. Students at the Boyd School of Law at UNLV, for instance, could see their tuition more than double, from $8,900 this year to $18,000 in 2009-10.

Nichols said Nevada has one of the lowest rates of state funding for financial aid - with loans, primarily from federal sources, making up 45 percent of aid awards.

Federal sources make up 60 percent of all financial aid, officials said. State sources, including the Millennium Scholarship, make up 21 percent, and institutions contribute 14 percent.

The Millennium Scholarship, the brainchild of then-Gov. Kenny Guinn, was hailed as an enticement to keep Nevada's high school students from leaving the state. It was funded by money the state received from tobacco company settlements.

When it was introduced eight years ago, it awarded up to $10,000
to high school students who met lenient eligibility requirements. About three out of four students used it.

Since then, eligibility requirements have tightened. Fewer students qualify, and those who do can now use the scholarship to cover just 12 credits per semester. In 2006, The use rate has fallen to three in five students.

Nevada Director of Financial Aid Sharon Wurm said the changes were made as the amount of tobacco settlement money waned.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-02-08-08 1532EST


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