Low Dollars and Change
By Annie Kinniburgh
Although it received high marks for its intimate classroom settings and quality of professors, the University of Mary Washington ranked #5 on the Worst Financial Aid list in the 2009 edition of the Princeton Review guide to undergraduate colleges.
According to the review, only 13 percent of incoming freshmen and 12 percent of overall undergraduate students received need-based financial aid during the 2007 school year.
The percentages of students receiving scholarship or grant aid was even lower, with only 11 percent of freshmen and 6 percent of overall undergraduates meriting non-need-based aid.
UMW President Judy Hample said the report, which was compiled from random surveys of students, raises valid concerns.
“We know that we don’t have enough money to give out to students to provide financial aid,” she said. “I have no doubt that some students have had unpleasant experiences.”
Hample said that the school was emphasizing private fundraising, another option to increase student financial aid.
“We raise as much money as we can privately, which is our only other avenue to have money to give out,” she said. “So we’re doing all we can.”
Hample stressed that the administration was taking concrete steps to increase student aid and provide services, and cited the building of a “one stop shop” for student convenience in the renovated Lee Hall.
“Our people work very hard to make sure that students get the services that they need,” she said. “We’re trying to be proactive in this and we are working very hard to correct those problems.”
She also said that the poor review might reflect student interactions with the Financial Aid Office as well as the amount of aid received. The administration has made plans to improve that relationship.
“We revised staff evaluation processes to where customer service is now a component of staff evaluations,” Hample said.
Vice President of Enrollment Communications Martin Wilder noted that the Princeton Review write-up also included many positive statistics, and that the University continues to move forward with projects in progress.
“Ninety percent of the review is very positive,” he said. “And we have exciting things coming along, like the Park and Shop property. A lot of things are being handled in pretty quick order.”
According to Hample, the University has performed strongly in many other college rankings, including the Forbes.com list of best value colleges, where it came in thirteenth in the nation.
According to the US News and World Report guide to America’s best colleges, the University of Mary Washington ranked sixth among Southern-region universities and third among public universities in that same region.
“These take into account an even wider range of things,” Wilder said. “The schools that tend to rise to the top there are the students with really high quality teachers.”
However, Hample said that the Princeton Review write-up will not be dismissed, and that the issues raised about poor financial aid will be addressed.
“We take all information very seriously because we take every student’s opinion seriously,” she said.