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Students unaware of financial aid issues

While college students may seem detached from the presidential election, one issue intrinsically links them — financial aid.

And as long as the presidency remains in limbo, so does the fate of college financial aid policy.

But Texas Gov. George Bush and Vice President Al Gore’s disparate aid platforms may not have factored into many students’ Nov. 7 choice.

Of the 20 BU students questioned, only two knew of Bush and Gore’s financial aid proposals.

College of Arts and Sciences freshman Nicolette Carter is part of about 82 percent of first-year BU student aid applicants who received funding. She said students’ lack of awareness about one of the main issues that directly affects them can be attributed to an election that overlooked them. Candidates should have campaigned to college students to not only gain more votes, but to attract a group known for its low voting turnout.

“It’s sad Bush and Gore haven’t publicized this to college students,” Carter said. “It’s an important aspect of college life.”

This year, the average aid plan for a BU student who received grants was $15,000. Over $38 million of financial aid, distributed in need-based grants and merit scholarships, were awarded in 1999.

In his $25-billion, decade-long plan, Bush seeks to increase the maximum aid from Federal Pell Grants for first-year students from $3,300 to $5,100. He also plans to expand the education savings accounts — accounts used by parents to save money for their child’s future college. The expansion will allow parents to deposit up to $5,000 a year, tax-free.

Some students said Bush’s plan is vague and flawed. They questioned where funding for the program would come from and if the changes assist students in the long run.

“Increasing the Pell Grant would be great for me — for this year,” said College of Communication freshman Carly Norton. “What about the rest of my college years? Would the amount of the grant be increased for each year, or just the first year?”

Besides increasing the amount of grants, Bush has developed a scholarship program as well.

Bush’s plan also focuses on assisting “low-income families” and increasing states’ federal funding. A “College Challenge” grant, which will cost $1.5 billion over five years, will enable states to develop merit scholarship programs for its students.

“[Bush’s plan] isn’t that big of a change,” said COM freshman Andrea Bonitatibus. “Financial aid is pretty much based on your parents’ income anyway, so it’s not really that different.”

Bonitatibus cast her vote for Gore without knowing of his financial aid platform.

Gore seeks to make tuition tax deductible and instate a tax credit program that would make the first two years of college nearly free based on individual merit.

Some students said if they had know about his proposal, it would have swayed their vote.

“If I had known about Gore’s plan, I would have voted for him,” Carter said.

But some students said they felt the incoming president would make little difference in financial aid because the platforms must also pass through Congress.

“I don’t think who is elected will make a big difference in tuition,” said School of Management senior Joseph Posillico.

Posillico, who voted for Bush, said financial aid platforms did not affect his vote. However, he said he favors using state funding in lieu of federal to aid students, which the Bush plan calls for.

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