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College Costs Alter Dreams: Education: $9,000 for Dorms Put UW Out of Reach for Freshman

College Costs Alter Dreams: Education: $9,000 for Dorms Put UW Out of Reach for Freshman

The Olympian, Olympia, Wash.

August 31, 2009

Aug. 31—OLYMPIA — For Maureen Lutz and her daughter, Lauren, 18, hard work paid off in an acceptance letter from the University of Washington in May.

However, this month the Lutzes had to make a difficult decision — Lauren had to withdraw from the University of Washington because the Olympia family couldn’t afford $9,000 for the residence halls.

Maureen Lutz said the family spent the summer searching for money to afford the residence halls, and the decision to withdraw was difficult. She was also taken aback to learn that the University of Washington will send a $400 bill because the Lutzes withdrew the application.

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“It’s already bad that we’ve had to cancel because we can’t afford it,” Maureen Lutz said. “But to make things worse, to say, ‘Too bad, you’ll have to pay us anyway.’”

The family isn’t alone in confronting the costs of college.

The University of Washington and Saint Martin’s University have both seen an increase in the number of students who are appealing for more financial aid. The Evergreen State College’s financial aid office has not seen similar increases in financial appeals and does not know how many students are not attending because of finances, according to college spokesman Jason Wettstein.

However, the financial aid officials couldn’t say with certainty if students need more aid because of the effect of a bad economy on family finances or increases in tuition — or both.

The Lutzes say they’ve felt the effects of the economy.

Maureen, Lauren and her brother, who is attending South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, haven’t had luck finding jobs in the past year, which leaves the father as the family’s sole breadwinner.

While the Lutzes have enough in loans to cover Lauren’s tuition, all they’ve been able to find that would cover the residence halls was a personal loan that, unlike a student loan, has a repayment plan that starts immediately.

Lauren Lutz said she tried to find a job and apply for as many scholarships as she could.

“But I wasn’t a junior or a senior anymore, so I ”">didn’t qualify for a lot of scholarships," said Lauren, who graduated from Capital High School in June.

At the University of Washington, the number of students who have filed appeals of their financial aid awards has increased by about 25 percent over previous years, said Kay Lewis director of student financial aid. Tuition rose this year by 14 percent to about $7,692, and the residence halls cost about $9,000 a year.

Lewis said that students who approach the University of Washington’s financial aid office with issues are encouraged to identify and seek more aid as soon as possible.

“Some programs such as the Pell Grant never run out of money,” Lewis said, referring to the federal grant program for middle- and low-income families. The school never runs out of loan money, she said. However, there are maximums for federally direct student loans.