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Applicant rates increase despite bad economy

Darla NoBel

The number of Mills College applicants remains at a record-breaking level for spring 2009, even though the United States is in an economic recession.

Mills officials attribute this to their decision to not let budget cuts affect student financial aid.

Last year there was a total of 1,416 first-year applications, and this year the number has already surpassed 1,700, according to Dean of Undergraduate Admission Giulietta Aquino.

Aquino said student interest remains high, and she expects to see the number of transfer applications remain high as well.

She also stated that the University of California and California State schools are limiting the amount of students who can attend due to budget cuts, something Mills is not planning to do.

Aquino expects private schools will become much more attractive, partially because of the increased financial aid that private schools can offer.

The goal for the incoming class of 2013 is 320 students, which is approximately the same number it has been for the past two years, according to Aquino.

However, student aid is now becoming an even higher priority for many applicants.

“I’ve actually read a few applications where students said, specifically, that the school they’re going to is the one that gives the best financial aid,” said Aquino.

“Students are more cautious and they’re going to wait and see which school gives the best financial aid package before they make their decisions,” she added.

President Janet Holmgren stated in a memorandum to the Mills community dated Jan. 27, “This year, we have awarded $17.8 million in institutional funds. and we expect demands for financial aid to increase.”

Holmgren added, “We anticipate and believe that students will receive financial aid at or above the current level for the next year.”

Much of the College’s funding for student scholarships comes from donations from alumnae and other donors, according to Holly Stanco, director of the Mills College Annual Fund.

She said more people are donating to Mills than ever, with 134 new donors giving money just this past fall.

Stanco also said that Mills met its fundraising goal of $15 million for the 2009 fiscal year, with about $14.5 million raised. She added there won’t be a decrease in money raised for financial aid.

“Our commitment will continue to be for scholarships,” she said.

Although Mills’ scholarship funding will not be affected, state-funded and government aid may be decreased.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently stated that, because of the state budget crisis, the funding for Cal grants may be reduced, according to Aquino.

Some students have felt the effects of such a decrease in financial aid.

“I heard that a lot of students had to leave a semester because of financial problems,” said sophomore Ellie Whiteley.

However, Aquino said, “it comes down to the families. We will go out with a generous financial aid packet, but the students might find themselves in a situation where they can’t afford to attend.”

According to Residential Adviser Lupe Cazares, several of her residents have left Mills since the beginning of last semester. She said that before the students arrived at Mills this semester, four students dropped out of her roster.

“Every floor probably has had two students or so leave,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s for financial reasons or not; sometimes I don’t even know they’ve left until the day after.”

The strategic enrollment plan for 2008-2013 states that the enrollment goal is to increase the number of undergraduate students to around 1,000 or 1,100. It is currently around 950.

Aquino said she believed this quota will be easily met given the number of applicants this year.