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Official discusses financial aid status

Ann Marie Woods | Wednesday, October 14, 2009

  Marking its 100th anniversary, the Wild Women of Walsh Hall hosted events including a hospitality tent, dinner and a Mass that were attended by more than 100 alumni as well as a number of present students.

“Our celebration is not only this weekend, but the entire year will be a celebration,” senior Meg Mirshak said. “This is not only about remembering the history of Walsh Hall, but celebrating the men and women who lived here.” 
 
Sophomore Kelsey Burke said Walsh began the weekend by gathering everyone in a hospitality tent for pizza Friday.
 
“After the pep rally on Friday all the girls in the dorm, alumni, family and friends were invited to enjoy pizza in the hospitality tent,” she said.
 
Burke said she has helped with planning of the festivities, which started last spring, and has continued throughout this year.
 
“We sent out e-mails to alumni of the Hall saying we had 100 tickets to the game and to please join us,” she said. “We were expecting over 100 alumni to attend.” 
 
A major component that went into planning the celebration was collecting history and reflections from members of the Walsh Hall community, Mirshak said.
 
“Walsh Hall was the first women’s dorm, in 1972, which was the first year of co-education at the University,” she said. 
 
Included in this weekends events and decorations were posters marking important events in Walsh Hall’s history, a poster with pictures of notable alumni and a 20-minute documentary of past and current Walsh residents.
 
“We put together a documentary with reflections from both male and female alumni, Fr. Hesburgh, Fr. Blantz and current residents,” Mirshak said. “They spoke of their experiences, funny stories, current traditions, the spirit of the hall and the community.” 
Mirshak said one of the reasons why they were able to compile the documentary was because the community of the dorm is so powerful.
 
“Our community is so strong, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?” she said. 
Sophomore Kate Gerbich, whose mother also lived in Walsh, said community is one of her favorite parts of the dorm.
 
“My favorite aspect of Walsh is its community and tradition,” she said. “With less girls you get to know all of them more.” 
 
The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the residence hall will continue with various events though the year
 
“Celebrating 100 years is so important, it shows just how important the dorm community is,” Mirshak said. “Even with the new dorms that have been built, the old ones are continuing their legacy.”

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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Official discusses financial aid status

Ann-Marie Woods | Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In an effort to increase communication between students and the Office of Financial Services, the Council of Representatives (COR) invited Joseph Russo, director of Student Financial Strategies, to speak about financial aid at Notre Dame.

“I want to share with you the bigger picture of what we do and how we do it,” Russo said.

Focusing on the policies of the Office of Financial Services, Russo said the University’s goal is making education reasonably affordable for everyone admitted.

“Our two main policies are need-blind admissions and a commitment to meeting full, annually demonstrated need of every student,” Russo said.

With the current financial crisis facing the country, the University is impacted by the economy, but has maintained a firm position of fiscal conservatism, which has allowed it to avoid the cuts other peer institutions have tackled with, Russo said.

“This past year has been the most difficult of all related to the economy,” Russo said. “I have seen the most applicants and the most need.”

Currently, 70 to 75 percent of undergraduates are receiving some form of financial aid for the estimated $53,000 annual cost of a Notre Dame education, including secondary expenses.

The University has established two primary methods for measuring a family’s ability to pay tuition.

“We use the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which is supposedly simple and tries to be as efficient as possible,” Russo said. “We also use a product of the College Board, the College Scholarship Service (CSS) which is more comprehensive but has a fee that can be waived for very needy students.”

From these sources, the University generates a number for the effective family contribution (EFC), which determines the need of a particular family and helps determine the form the funds will be disbursed, such as grants, loans and work study.

“We use the EFC to drive the eligibility for need-based institutional funding,” Russo said. “It is not a perfect science but we start with the cost of education and subtract what we think is reasonable and then we try to create a financial aid package from that.”

“Students and families are making heavy sacrifices and that is very humbling for us,” Russo said.

The University has spent $88 million on undergraduates for University scholarships, not including outside scholarships, athletic scholarships or any other source of outside financial aid. Of this year’s freshman class, almost 50 percent of the students received University scholarship, with the average scholarship totaling $25,000.

Many students and their families complain to the Office of Financial Services about the lack of merit-based scholarships at Notre Dame, an issue the University and its peer institutions struggle with, Russo said.

“Every student we admit is meritorious,” Russo explained. “Where would we start with a merit program?”

However, 20 new merit-based scholarships will be offered to the undergraduate class of 2014 because of a generous donation from alumni couple Mark W. and Stacey Miller Yusko who made a $35 million dollar gift to the University. The scholarship of $25,000 per student will be a four-year commitment, including financial support for summer and academic year projects.

“There will be a rigorous interview process,” Russo said. “The common attribute they are looking for is a person who looks to be a transformational leader,” in the image of University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh.

In light of rising costs nationwide, the University has been forced to act conservatively and utilize tuition to support the institution’s needs, including increasing the size of this year’s freshman class.

“University costs go up at a higher rate than any other consumer product,” Russo said.

While the University looks for new ways of increasing efficiency and remaining fiscally conservative, Russo encourages students and families to explore all options for financial aid and to understand the Notre Dame education as something of incredible value.

“You have to view the cost of education as an investment, something of value that will yield a return,” Russo said.