By L. REED WALTON, Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS - An unusually high number of Maryland undergraduates - about 40 percent - cancel or refuse to accept aid from the state's largest need-based aid program, a new survey says.
The survey, presented Thursday to a committee of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, said that students were turning down Maryland Educational Assistance Grants (EAG) - available only to full-time in-state students - because they attend school part time or go to college out of state.
The study's principal author, Heidi Meredith, also said that many students took the time to mention in the survey that financial aid packages they were offered from out-of-state colleges were better than Maryland's.
Part time enrollment was the second most common reason that students declined or canceled award money, she said.
Undergraduates studying part time were eligible for yearly grants of $1,000 under a different program for part time students.
The maximum EAG award in 2006 for a full time student was $1,500 per year.
Both programs have raised the maximum available - $3,000 for full time and $1,500 for part time. Total funding for the EAG program rose 20 percent to $58.9 million in the current fiscal year.
The commission also revised the qualification criteria for need-based aid this year to make more students eligible. The amount of total state aid is on the rise, with all of the state's need-based aid programs set to dispense around $83 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
Anticipating that not every student to whom aid is offered will accept it, the state typically commits to awarding more money than it has in the EAG program so that it won't have money left over. Nevertheless, there is still a 1,000-name waiting list for aid from the program.
The waiting list has shrunk by about 6,000 names since 2004, said Andrea Mansfield, director of the office of student financial aid. The money that is unused by students who study part time or out-of-state is redistributed each year to qualified students on the list.
After making more students eligible for the aid and having more aid to give out, Mansfield said that it is now time to evaluate the part time program. David Sumler, a member of the Higher Education Commission, agrees: "We need to do a better job in generating aid for our part time students."