In the first year of the University’s expanded aid policy, which covers all tuition and fees for most families making up to $100,000 annually, the University has also seen an increase in another statistic: delays. Over 200 undergraduates’ financial aid awards were delayed this academic year, with some awards still outstanding four weeks into the semester.
According to University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, between Sept. 1 and Sept. 25, 223 aid decisions were posted compared to 50 in the same time frame last year. Hotchkiss noted that the Financial Aid Office had seen an increase in incomplete applications this year.
“As a result, the Office has had to reach out to families to gather additional documentation, delaying the decision timeline,” he wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian.
Thus far, all aid appears on track to be distributed. The delay, however, worried students given the high cost of tuition and the potential negative consequences if students did not get their aid packages. Five students shared their experience on condition of anonymity to the ‘Prince’ for the purpose of protecting financial privacy.
“I wish they had notified me a bit sooner, while I was home, which is when I had access to the tax documents, or at least before school started so that it could have been a task I would have been able to focus on,” a student whose aid was delayed explained. “It feels like Princeton is asking for proof that I am poor.”
A July email sent to applicants for financial aid, acquired by the ‘Prince’, stated that students who submitted their documents before May 1 would be able to access their awards on July 14. Those who submitted documents between May 2 and July 1 would receive their awards on or before Aug. 15, and those who submitted documents after then would receive their awards on a rolling basis after the 15th.
One student had not received their financial aid after being notified in mid-September that their application was incomplete. They said taking care of their own financial aid forms was a source of stress.
Another student explained that they received their financial aid award during the second week of school, even after submitting their documentation on time. However, they had to resubmit documents in June after being told by the aid office that their documents were “incorrect,” they wrote.
The student recalled thinking at the time that they would be responsible for over $40,000 in tuition.
Another described receiving their financial aid during the third week of classes.
“I was super annoyed and frustrated about it,” they told the ‘Prince.’ “The financial aid department should … expand to support the [number] of students in Princeton now.”
The student also said that delay of their aid award contributed to their decision to not rejoin their eating club, as they didn’t receive money from the University in time to pay their dues.
Distributing aid remains one of the University's core functions. The expanded aid has led to increased hires in the appropriate University departments to process forms more quickly. Hotchkiss also shared that “staffing has increased in the aid office in recent years, [and] there are currently several positions open.”
Miriam Waldvogel is an assistant News editor at the ‘Prince.’
Louisa Gheorghita is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’
Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.