The Massachusetts state grant has allegedly been disappearing from some students’ financial aid award letters.
Senior Matt Schwartz stated he noticed this when he received a letter from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. The letter allegedly stated the state of N.H. is not accepting grants from out-of-state students’ home states. When Schwartz looked at his financial aid award letter from Keene State College, he said he saw a grant from Massachusetts for $300 that had been there before was not there anymore.
“Since I started at Keene [State College] back in 2010, the state of Massachusetts has given me grants, basically like a scholarship, to go to an out-of-state school,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz asked, “What’s actually going on to have my home state say that they’re not accepting money from me or any other student?” Schwartz is supposedly not the only Massachusetts resident to have reported this happening to them.
According to Associate Director of Financial Aid, Deborah Nichols, this information holds truth. The Financial Aid Office was told in January that the Massachusetts state grant would not be offered to students going to out-of-state schools for the 2014-2015 academic year, Nichols said.
“Starting in ‘14-15 Mass. residents, Mass. students, will not be getting their state grants if they come to N.H.,” Nichols said.
The New England states made an agreement years ago to allow state grants from other New England states acceptance in colleges and universities in New England, according to Nichols.
“The state of Massachusetts will not be funding students who go out of the state with their state grants and it is because of the reciprocity,” Nichols said.
According to Katy Abel, associate commissioner for external affair for the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the policy says that a state needs to have reciprocity with the state of Massachusetts for Massachusetts state grants to travel with students to out-of-state schools.
According to Director of the Division of Higher Education Commission in N.H., Dr. Edward MacKay, N.H. was the first state out of New England to break out of the reciprocity three years ago. MacKay said because of the Great Recession, the state of N.H. had to cut back on their funding for some programs, one being the N.H. Incentive Grant, which was a $300 grant given to students going to schools outside of N.H. for the academic year. The N.H. Incentive Grant cost around $3 million every year, according to MacKay.
“Because of the Great Recession,” MacKay said, “the fiscal challenges facing the state, the state made a number of difficult decisions, including eliminating the New Hampshire Incentive Grant.”
According to Abel, “Both states have to be in agreement to allow funds to travel from one state in order for reciprocity agreements to work.”
Abel said, “Letters were sent to students notifying them of this change, but again it was a change, in reaction to policies put in place in New Hampshire and in Massachusetts.”
Abel clarified it was not possible to allow reciprocity to happen when N.H. took away state grants to students going to other out-of-state colleges.
According to Abel, Maine has recently closed reciprocity with Mass. as well, and Mass. has been working on closing reciprocity with both N.H. and Maine. Abel also said approximately seven years ago, Maryland broke reciprocity with Massachusetts.
“In all three of these cases, it has been other states to break reciprocity with Massachusetts,” Abel said.
According to Nichols, the students who have filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2014-2015 academic year will be notified if Mass. has eliminated the state grant. “These letters usually go out for if they’ve filed their ‘14-15 FAFSA already, not until usually March or April, so I’m confused by the letter [that Schwartz received],” Nichols said. According to Nichols, KSC does not deny any form of financial aid. “If the state offers a student a state grant for an out-of-state school,” Nichols said, “we wouldn’t deny it.”
Schwartz said he has not applied for financial aid for the next academic year, and is hopefully ending his college career in May 2014.
“I understand that any dollars a student loses is hurtful,” Nichols said, “but you could also understand from Massachusetts’ point of view that if we [N.H.] aren’t giving money to our [N.H.] students that are going to their [Mass.] state, why should they [Mass.] give their money to their students for our [N.H.] state?”
Rebecca Marsh can be contacted at email@example.com