Despite economy, WU financial aid dollars steady

Facing nation-wide economy woes, University restates commitment

| Staff Reporter

In response to the continuing worldwide crisis in financial markets, universities around the country are starting to feel the impact of their endowment funds posting significant losses in recent months.

According to Director of Student Financial Services Bill Witbrodt, Washington University has still been able to meet the financial needs of students despite the coun-try’s economic crisis.

The University has several scholarship funds that use the interest gained from investment of the endowment, Witbrodt said.

“We’ve been able to be as responsive as we’ve always been to help students whose families are in financial difficulties,” Witbrodt said. “We’ve been able to help the students.”

According to Witbrodt, there has not been a large increase in the number of students seeking financial aid at the University. He said this could be attributed to the fact that bills have not yet been sent for the spring semester.

“We’ve had students who have been in our office concerned about situations in their families throughout the summer and into the fall. We haven’t seen a significant in-crease since the stock market crash on Sept. 15,” he said. “That’s not to say we won’t, but so far we haven’t seen as many students as you would expect.”

Witbrodt said that some prospective students’ families considering the University have worried about their ability to afford the tuition and room and board costs.

“I’ve talked to a few families who have seen their college savings plans dwindle down. They are concerned about their ability to fund [college costs]. Depending on the family’s individual situation, we’ve worked through many scenarios to make them feel comfort-able that this is doable,” Witbrodt said.

For sophomore Nick May, financial aid is a very important part of his ability to attend the University. May worries that if aid is not available, he will have to look elsewhere to continue his college education.“

As a student who is here only because of financial aid, if the economy affects the endowment negatively, I might not get as much aid as I got last year,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to go here, because I and my family would not be able to pay for it.”

May also noted that the downturn may affect the numerous construction projects undertaken by the University in the past year.“

I feel that the construction on the South 40 was planned with a large endowment in mind. But now, with the state that the economy is in, the University might not have as large an endowment as they thought they would have,” May said.

Sophomore John Hergenroeder said that while he is concerned about the endowment, he is not worried that the University will be negatively impacted.

“It concerns me to an extent, but I realize the investments [the University] makes are extremely long term. As an institution they expect to be around for another few hundred years,” Hergenroeder said. “Temporary downturns in things like the housing market might be significant toward short-term expansion plans. They don’t matter as much in the University’s long-term plans.”

Hergenroeder also said that he assumes the University would plan for events such as the economic downturn.

“I’d like to think the University has had the foresight to be prepared for market downturns to keep doing things until the market turns around or a new investment strategy can be worked out,” he said.

Meanwhile, some colleges around the country are currently experiencing sharp declines in their endowments. The endowment of the University of Texas-Austin was at $7 billion at the start of the year, but has since dropped almost 13 percent to approximately $6 billion.

Harvard University, with the largest endowment of any college in the United States, fared slightly better, earning just more than 8 percent for the last fiscal year. The return, however, was still lower than the 23 percent earned in the previous year.