|UW-Eau Claire||News Bureau|
|Schofield Hall 218|
|Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
MAILED: Feb. 17, 1997
EAU CLAIRE - A special financial aid package at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will help students who are low-income single parents deal with the effects of Wisconsin's welfare reform legislation known as W-2.
The package, available for the 1997-98 academic year, was created to help single parents stay in school and earn their degree despite the loss of Aid to Dependent Children grants under W-2, which requires recipients of public assistance to work in order to receive cash and benefits and limits their benefits to 60 months.
The director of UW-Eau Claire's Educational Opportunity Center says the reform measures due to be implemented later this year are causing fear and confusion among low-income single parent students who aren't sure how they will be affected.
"Some will need to stop out of college until they figure how to comply with the 30 hours per week work requirement while managing their family responsibilities and the demands of college," Patricia Quinn said. "Others will have to go part time, and others are galloping to the finish line by taking on higher course loads to complete their degree as soon as possible."
Under the new package UW-Eau Claire will award low-income single parent students financial assistance totaling at least the amount they would have received in AFDC living expenses, plus tuition and fees, books and basic child care, according to Kathy Sahlhoff, director of financial aids.
To be eligible, a student must be an undergraduate, single parent, who could have qualified for AFDC using the eligibility criteria in place prior to W-2. The rationale for limiting the program to single parents is the fact that these students have child care expenses that married student parents do not have unless the spouse is working, thus providing additional resources for the family.
Sahlhoff said the program is based on a standard financial aid budget plus $2,000 in child care allowance. The aid package will fund 45 percent of this budget with federal and state grants. The remaining need is available through work-study and loans. Because the university does not receive additional funds to replace the AFDC funding, the new aid program will mean a very slight across-the-board reduction to all recipients of federal SEOG grants.
"Clearly this financial aid package is not a wonderful fix for the problems single-parent students face," Sahlhoff said. "After tuition and fees, books and basic child care, it provides about $650 a month for living expenses. Even though that is slightly more than AFDC, it affords bare-minimum living. Most individuals will need additional support to make it."
Sahlhoff says the financial aid package assumes that even though students are no longer eligible for AFDC, they will continue to receive other basic support programs, specifically food stamps, housing subsidy and Medicaid. If additional legislation or interpretation of the current legislation denies these programs to single students, they will need additional assistance in order to continue their degree program
"Previously under AFDC many students were able to live very frugally and avoid as much debt as possible," Sahlhoff said. "Without AFDC we don't see any way these students can meet their basic expenses without accumulating indebtedness."
She said the university is willing to increase a student's funding for actual child care expenses above $2,000, but again the funding would have to come through a loan program.
To encourage work-study participation and off-set loan need, the university is exploring ways to support child care expenses. According to Jane Linton, director of the on-campus child care center, students are eligible for subsidized child care that runs about $2,000 for full-time care during the academic year. However, the center doesn't offer infant care or an after-school program, so it doesn't meet everyone's needs, Linton said. She suggests students apply as early as possible if they need full-time child care next year.
Katherine Rhoades, coordinator of the Women in Transition program, is working with the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and members of the Eau Claire community to raise private funds to help supplement the university's financial aid package. Called Partners for a Positive Future, the group is modeled on the Friends of Music, who raise money for specific needs in the department of music and theatre arts. Rhoades said the Partners' effort is off to a good start with lead gifts of $4,000 toward the group's $20,000 goal for 1996-97.
"We know it makes good economic sense to enable single parents to stay in school and earn their degree, considering that a person with a college degree will pay about $250,000 more in taxes during a lifetime than a person without a college degree, not to mention the other contributions to be expected from a more educated populace," Rhoades said.
For more information about financial aid for low-income single parents, contact the UW-Eau Claire Office of Financial Aids, (715)836-3373 and make an appointment to meet with a financial aids counselor. Because funding is limited, priority will be given to students who meet the April 15 priority filing date for financial aid.
[Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: April 24, 1997