Penn State strategizes access, affordability tactics

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PENN STATE OLD MAIN

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) — A new grant is being piloted to support need-based Penn State University students for the 2021-22 school year as the university strategizes new ways to make a Penn State education more accessible and affordable.

The LiveOn Student Success Grant is piloted by Housing and Food Services, which is a university auxiliary service. It will provide $2.4 million annually in the room and board aid to residents at nine different Penn State campuses: Abington, Beaver, Behrend, Berks, Brandywine, Greater Allegheny, Hazleton, Mont Alto and University Park.

“While need-based students already receive financial support from federal and/or state sources along with tuition awards, we know students are still challenged, whether in-state or out-of-state, with their total cost of attendance,” Assistant Vice President for Penn State Housing and Food Services Cheryl Fabrizi said. “The LiveOn Student Success Grant supports each student and their family, who recognize the valuable role that living on campus plays in every student’s daily housing and food security, successful learning, development opportunities, sense of community, increased exposure to perspectives, satisfaction and persistence to graduation.”

ELIGIBILITY

Penn State said students must provide information via FAFSA and demonstrate a need for financial aid, including federal and/or state aid in addition to tuition aid. Additional eligibility details are available from the individual campuses’ admission and financial aid offices.

AFFORDABILITY STRATEGIES

Penn State is continuing to employ strategies to help manage educational costs and meet students’ needs. President Eric Barron highlighted what he deems non-traditional strategies at the Board of Trustees Meeting May 7, including addressing housing and food insecurity and building financial literacy.

Barron said the university’s approach is focused on creating solutions to help students thrive while they are at school, to borrow less, graduate on time and gain financial skills as they prepare to launch their careers and lives. According to Barron, in-state students are paying less tuition at Penn State today than they were in the 2011-12 academic year.

In April, Penn State launched a “Swipe Out Hunger” event where students were able to donate their leftover dining dollars to the Student Emergency Fund. The university raised over $12,000 in one week.

Barron’s list of strategies to address access and affordability for Penn State students include controlling tuition costs, financial aid and COVID-19 relief, institutional aid, financial support at key moments of access and transition, addressing food and housing insecurity, using advising technology in new ways and financial literacy education.

TUITION COSTS AND FINANCIAL RELIEF

The Penn State Board of Trustees approved a tuition freeze for the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Penn State said they are lobbying for increases in federal Pell Grants and for the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program to be applied to state-related universities. The Nellie Bly scholarship currently provides assistance to students at 14 different universities, such as Bloomsburg, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Lock Haven and Kutztown.

For the 2019-20 school year, 49% of total financial aid for Penn State students was federal aid, while 23% was private and external aid and state aid was 3%, according to the university. However, the Board of Trustees approved a proposal to increase room and board costs for the 2021-22 school year. The cost of a standard double room and common meal plan will increase by $203 per semester.

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