Students At Pa. State Universities Receive Funds Held Up By Impasse

Feb 17, 2016

The Durrwachter Alumni Conference Center on the Lock Haven University campus.
Credit User:Ruhrfisch - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8138315

Students at state universities, like Lock Haven University, are finally in the process of receiving state grants that had been delayed due to the continued budget impasse. Though the money is finally on its way, students are still dealing with the fallout of the delayed funding.

The budget impasse was not expected to go on quite this long. Students who didn’t receive their Pennsylvania state grant funds until just recently have had to make sacrifices.

Landon Allen is a senior at Lock Haven University. He says he had to postpone his Dental School Admissions Test because he couldn’t afford it.

“I haven’t had the funds to really buy the test,” said Allen. “The test is $430; it’s a very expensive test.”

Now in February, seven months after students were awarded grants, the money is finally being disbursed. Lock Haven University was one of the 14 state-owned universities with students affected by this impasse.  

At Lock Haven, 85% of students get some type of financial aid and approximately 1,800 students received grants from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency or (PHEAA) this year. That’s almost $2.2 million in delayed funds for students.

“I’ve been in financial aid in the state of Pennsylvania for over 15 years now and this is the first time that this has occurred to this extent,” said Robert Fryer.

Fryer is the director of financial aid at Lock Haven University and has been dealing with the impasse crisis since August.

Each year a portion of the state budget goes towards need based financial aid for Pennsylvania college students. Many students who receive these state grants collect a refund from their university after their tuition and fees are paid. This money oftentimes goes towards purchasing books, paying for off campus housing, and other education related expenses.

Tyana Lange is the Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at Lock Haven. She has been handling the grant situation and the effect it’s had on Lock Haven students.   

“We did not put holds on accounts, we did not charge late fees, we knew the money was coming it was put on their account so when they looked at it they knew it was coming,” Lange said. 

Lock Haven was able to cover students’ costs temporarily, but there wasn’t any excess for students to receive a refund.

Lange said, “We could not do the refunds because we didn’t have the money.”

The university was able to provide some emergency loans through their foundation; however, these were capped at $500 per student. With the average Pennsylvania State grant at Lock Haven totaling $1,800 these loans were just a drop in the bucket for some students.

Without the money students were left with few options. Ashley Wilkinson is a social work student at Lock Haven University. She was expecting state grant money to help her buy books on top of helping to fund her tuition. 

“I had to really scrounge to really get my books and I had to apply for a private loan just to cover the tuition raise and what wasn’t covered with all my grants and everything just to come to school last fall, so it was tough,” Wilkinson said.

On December 29th Governor Wolf passed a partial budget. Universities in the state system as well as PHEAA state grants were funded in this move; meaning that money is finally on its way to students.

At Lock Haven the first wave of funds for the fall semester was distributed during the last week of January. Money for the spring semester is scheduled to reach students by the end of February.

Wilkinson says she’s excited the money is on its way, but for her it’s coming just a few weeks too late.

She’s still putting her grant money towards her education: “Now I can just put it back towards my loans that I already owe.”