By Ava Roesslein and Sam Masterson
Sean Hart had to pick between Mizzou, Southeast Missouri State, or Webster University. Then Webster awarded him a $9,000 academic scholarship. Hart is now a junior at Webster.
He received his scholarship based on his ACT score, GPA, and class rank. But students enrolling at Webster next year who have the same scores and merit as Hart may receive less scholarship money.
Vice President of Enrollment Paul Carney is concerned Webster may lose prospective students due to decreased financial aid.
Universities across the United States give institutional grants and scholarships to attract top students and help disadvantaged students. The university doesn’t hand students the money. Instead doesn’t charge those students the full price—like a discount.
“Generally, over each of the past five years, the discount rate has been higher for freshmen than it was for the previous freshman class,” Carney said.
Carney said the undergraduate discount rate at Webster has gone from 37 percent to 42 percent over the past five years. That means 42 percent of students receive some financial aid from Webster. Comparatively, the national undergraduate discount rate has gone up from 35.1 percent to 37.2 in the past five years. But next year that discount rate will go down. A decrease in the amount of state and federal money given to Webster has forced the rate to go down.
Even with the stabilization of national undergraduate discount rates, the average tuition rate for full-time freshman entering college has grown. The average tuition-discount rate has climbed from 39.1 percent in 2007 to 41.8 percent in 2008 nationally, according to a survey in the National Association of College.
Private universities like Webster don’t get subsidies from the state like public institutions do. Institutions like Webster have to find other ways to balance its budget. But that hasn’t stopped students from choosing Webster over state institutions.
“I looked at Mizzou (University of Missouri, Columbia) and SEMO (Southeast Missouri State University), but Webster gave me the most (money) so I was like oh ok I’ll go here,” Hart said.
According to the Missouri Department of Higher Education Webster gives more scholarship and grant money than many other state schools. For example, Mizzou gives approximately $92,924,291 in monetary assistance to students. Southeast Missouri State University gives even less, totalling $16,782,062 in grants and scholarships.
“The reason I choose Webster was because of the scholarship, I got the most to go here,” said Megan Burns, junior speech and communications.
Recent news of the Fall 2013 drop in discount rate money has caused concern among faculty, staff and administrators.
“If we decrease the discount, we’re going to lose 25 extra students,” Carney said. “We need new academic program initiatives so we can get more students because they are interested in new programs.”
Carney also feels that adding athletic programs will help with recruiting despite the lowering discount rate. For example, if Webster added a lacrosse team, Carney said they would be able to add about 20 extra students they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.
While the discount rate remains a big issue for Webster and other universities across the country, Carney remains optimistic that the university will get through it.
“We’re trying to do the best we can for all of the students,” Carney said. “The students are our kids. You all are a member of the family and we will all do this together.”