Financial Services Office Unpacks Aid in MiddWorks Session

By GIBSON GRIMM

Staff in the Student Financial Services Office explained the college’s financial services in this year’s second MiddWorks presentation on Oct. 25. Director of Financial Aid Operations Michael McLaughlin, Senior Associate Student Financial Services Director Michele Almeida and Loan Programs and Compliance Specialist Jane Aube led the presentation, which was intended to give students a better understanding of how aid works.

Student Financial Services oversees four main systems: financial aid, student billing, the college cashier and education loan financing. The discussion focused primarily on the financial aid component, given its relevance to the student body. McLaughlin emphasized the relevance of the session and of the Student Financial Services Office, an integral part of college operations.

“It touches every part of campus, every population,” McLaughlin said. 

When applying for financial aid, students must fill out two applications: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which concerns federal financial assistance, and the College Scholarship Service (CSS), which is the institutional methodology that dictates Middlebury’s financial aid. 

The majority of financial aid is given out by the college itself. The average grant for an incoming student in the Class of 2022 was $49,000.

In determining how much aid a student will be granted, the office first calculates the expected family contribution (EFC). Both parental and student contributions are based on taxable income, with allowances made for things like child support, day-to-day medical costs, and daily expenses. It also considers assets like cash, savings, investment and real estate, with allowances for emergency reserve savings, education savings and low-income status.

The office also considers the number of siblings attending undergraduate institutions, which can affect the expected parent contribution. Student contributions, considered the “self-help” component, are largely made up of loans and work-study offers.  This is considered with the idea that a student should share responsibility for the cost of their education.

The financial aid office then builds a budgeted cost of attendance for the student by first determining the total billed costs, like tuition, housing, meals and student activities, and the unbilled costs, such as supplies and travel. From this total cost, the EFC is subtracted. The resulting number becomes the calculated need for the individual student.

Scholarships are a common source of confusion in the financial aid process. McLaughlin explained that Middlebury does not offer merit awards because most students are academically qualified and admitted based on their merits. The office’s goal is to allocate funds to those who need it the most. The financial aid office does not allow outside scholarships to replace the family contribution, but they will let them replace loans or work-study.

Another aspect of Student Financial Services is student billing, where the department uses third-party vendor Nelnet Campus Commerce to bill students the cost of their attendance. Families can choose either to pay one semester at a time, on a monthly payment plan, or through a multi-year pre-payment plan.

The college cashier also operates through student financial services and deals with student charges such as dorm fines and parking tickets, as well as the campus retail operations such as dining, the Snow Bowl and the box office.

Education loan financing deals with the different loans families may take out as part of their financial aid. The college also offers exit loan counseling sessions before students graduate. Aube said this helps students plan for the future as they manage their loans after college. 

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Financial Services Office Unpacks Aid in MiddWorks Session