Need-Based Financial Aid is Largely an Every-University-For-Itself Affair
MILWAUKEE — Sh’Tejah Ward needed to come up with $8,651 to pay the rest of her fall semester bill for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t be able to return in the spring. Looking for answers, she stopped by the school’s financial aid office one October afternoon and succinctly summed up her situation to an adviser: “I’m lost.”
Ward barely spoke for the rest of the meeting. She nodded along and grew increasingly overwhelmed as the adviser walked her through her options.
There were few. Ward had already received all the federal grant money she could get. The roughly $1.4 million in need-based financial aid that the school distributes among its nearly 25,000 undergraduates was long gone. So too was nearly all of the roughly $5.4 million in scholarships, most of which had at least some academic requirements attached. Still, Ward watched attentively as she was shown how to use the school’s scholarship portal and how to find information on private loan providers once she maxed out her federal ones.