Tom Biedscheid, assistant vice president for Enrollment and Access, has worked in the Colorado State University Office of Financial Aid for nearly 20 years, during which time he has seen many changes. Among those was the introduction of CSU’s Tuition Assistance Grant Program, which provides need-based financial aid packages to Colorado residents looking to attend the state’s land-grant university.
Q. What is the Colorado Tuition Assistance Grant, and who was it designed to help?
A. As a land-grant institution, CSU has remained true to providing access to higher education for all Coloradans. One challenge is the cost of college in a state that is ranked 48th in the nation in funding for higher education. Since the state has been unable to provide sufficient support, CSU developed the Tuition Assistance Grant to help make a higher education accessible for low- to middle-income students.
Q. How is CTAG funded?
A. The CSU Tuition Assistance Grant Program is funded by federal, state and institutional financial aid dollars. The Federal Pell Grant, Colorado Student Grant, and the CSU Tuition Assistance Grant are combined to offer an amount that ranges from $6,400 to $16,500, based on the student and family’s income.
Q. How many students apply annually for CTAG, and how many are accepted?
A. Eligibility for CTAG is determined by a student’s expected family contribution (EFC) as calculated by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If a student’s EFC is under $17,000 and their adjusted gross income is under $110,000, they will be considered for the grant. We award over 4,700 students each year.
Q. What’s the average grant amount?
Q. The largest?
Q. How do prospective students find out about CTAG?
A. The Office of Admissions initiates communication about the grant program with prospective students early on. It is also a part of every presentation given by an admissions or financial aid Counselor, and we keep our high school and pre-collegiate partners updated on it every year. More information is also available here.
Q. Despite those efforts, are there still students on campus who could be taking advantage of this program?
A. We do know there are students on campus who have not applied for financial aid or completed the financial aid process and that is the first step. We also try to find these students via more communication on campus and we will actually look at students’ bills each semester. If we see someone with a high balance and they haven’t applied for financial aid, we will contact them. It is such a critical student success piece.
Q. How does this program set CSU apart from other colleges and universities?
A. The fact that this is our 10th anniversary of the program says it all. Every now and again you will see a school have a press release about a “free tuition” program they started. In the meantime, CSU has paid over $160 million in the past decade and goes well beyond just tuition and fees.
Q. How has the program evolved over the years?
A. Cost continues to rise and state support continues to stay relatively flat, so improving the program is always a challenge. We have worked hard to get better at directing the funds to the students who truly need the support and that alone has allowed us to both grow the number of students served while simultaneously increasing the grant amount. Our ultimate goal is to completely eliminate the financial barrier to every Coloradan that wants a CSU degree. If we had about $7 million more dollars, we could get close.
Q. Can you offer some advice/encouragement to students who are hesitant to apply to CSU because of their financial situation?
A. If you do everything you can in high school to get yourself admitted to CSU, we will do everything we can to make it financially accessible. It costs absolutely nothing to apply for the grant program and it so often leads to a life-changing event. Every year, we graduate about 1,000 students with a bachelor’s degree who were recipients of the CSU Tuition Assistance Grant Program.
Q. Finally, can you sum up what the program means not only to students but to CSU?
A. A bachelor’s degree often serves as a bridge to a life filled with choices and economic self-sufficiency. The CSU Tuition Assistance Grant has been a part of the bridge’s foundation for a decade. While it has certainly created opportunity for students, the students have made CSU such a better place.