Every year the Delaware legislature’s Joint Finance Committee meets to hear from the state’s institutions of higher education. On Feb. 3, University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis presented the university’s $18.3 million request to the Committee.
The amount requested consisted of $7.3 million to graduate more healthcare professionals going into the fields of epidemiology, nursing, speech pathology and medical or molecular science; $4.7 million to increase financial aid, especially to Pell Grant recipients; $3.4 million towards academic support to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on students’ education; $1.5 million to graduate more teachers and a $1.4 million increase in base funding for the Associate in the Arts Program (AAP).
Assanis stressed the importance of supporting Pell Grant recipients in Delaware, saying that more students are requesting financial aid this year due to COVID-19, putting pressure on the university’s resources, “which are already being stretched thin.”
Unlike a loan, Federal Pell Grants typically do not have to be repaid. They are awarded to undergraduate students who display financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree.
Assanis said that the university aims to eliminate the cost of tuition, fees and room and board for Pell-eligible students. For the 2021-2022 academic year, in addition to the $5,000 average Pell Grant for students with greatest need, the state gives an average of $7,500 in support and the university provides $13,600 on average. Even with this support, Pell students are currently expected to pay $5,400 per year.
“We all want to support the educational goals of Delawareans,” Assanis said. “So, I must ask again for your support to help us keep pace with the financial needs of Delaware students. We’re simply not where we need to be yet.”
According to the Education Data Initiative, in 2021 17,385 Delaware undergraduate students received a Pell Grant, with the average grant amount being $3,748 per year. The same year, University of Delaware tuition increased to $12,980 for in-state students and $34,840 for out-of-state students. The university also required a payment of $704 for the Wellness Fee, $238 for the Student Center Fee and $1,098 for the Student Comprehensive Fee, totaling $2,040 in fees alone.
“We work to keep tuition and fees affordable for our students,” Assanis said. “And these costs are among the lowest compared to our peer institutions. However, we’re concerned that the financial hardships created by the pandemic are putting college out of reach for too many Delaware students and their families. And this is a trend across the country.”
Tuition for the University of Delaware is comparable to other nearby public universities, such as Temple University, the University of Maryland and Rutgers University. However, University of Delaware full-time students pay more in fees than those at Temple University, who pay $445, and those at the University of Maryland, who pay $977.50. Rutgers full-time students pay $3,034 in fees.
Robin Morgan, University of Delaware provost, explained to the committee that there was a “growing problem” of students who had “met the requirements for graduation but they haven’t been able to pay that [tuition and fee] bill.”
Due to this, the University of Delaware is pushing to cover the gaps in funding for low-income students. There are currently 1,600 Pell Grant recipients at the University of Delaware. Morgan said that there may be another 1,000 students who do not qualify for a Pell Grant but “have need.”
Assanis explained that students from families that make less than $75,000 per year would have tuition and fees covered but would still be responsible for room and board. Students from families making less than $35,000 would have room and board covered in addition to tuition and fees. Assanis also mentioned that families making between $75,000 and $100,000 would be eligible for “more incremental support.”
Neither Assanis nor Morgan mentioned a timeline for when the increase in aid would be implemented.