Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
January 26, 2023
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According to the 2022–2023 U.S. News & World Report, Hopkins ranked the ninth best value school based on its reduced cost with an average level of financial aid and its academic quality. The University’s financial aid program for undergraduate students is need-based and takes into account the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the College Board’s College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile, recent family tax returns and special circumstances. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Assistant Vice President for Media Relations and News J.B. Bird detailed that the University uses this information to calculate the estimated family contribution (EFC) per year. The EFC is subtracted from the total cost of attendance, and grant aid and non-federal work study are awarded to meet this need. 

According to Bird, the average grant award to the 2022-2023 freshmen is $58,700, covering 72% of the total cost of attendance — an increase from 2018 when the average grant award was $42,000, covering 58% of the total cost of attendance. 

He noted that the 2018 monetary gift from alumnus Michael Bloomberg allows the University to offer financial aid packages without student loans, which led to a reduction in the percentage of students who take out student loans. In the 2022 graduation cohort, 34% of students took out loans, as compared to 46% in the 2018 graduation cohort. He expects this percentage to continue to decline when the class of 2023 graduates — the first class to fully benefit from Bloomberg’s donation.

“Some students and families still elect to take on debt, for reasons of their own, but the University is committed to making it possible for Homewood students to graduate debt free,” he wrote. 

In interviews with The News-Letter, four students detailed their experiences with financial aid at the University. 

Malaika Voyou

In an interview with The News-Letter, sophomore Malaika Voyou related her experiences with the University’s financial aid resources.

Voyou is a first-generation, limited-income (FLI) student. Since her mother is listed as her primary caregiver on the FAFSA form, her EFC is zero. However, according to Voyou, the University also considers parents who are still in communication with their children in its EFC calculation. 

“I am a child of divorce, so it was kind of complicated because my dad also lives in Africa. But they still want all of his tax documents... which is not really that easy,” she said. 

Despite her father not providing financial support, Voyou’s calculated need decreased. She managed to successfully appeal her aid before committing to the University and again in the spring semester of her freshman year.

Voyou expressed her frustration with the University’s calculations process.

“For students who are in between where you are still in communication with your other parent, it doesn’t mean that they are expected to pay support and pay for your college,” she said. “It puts you in a weird place where [the University] uses [my father’s] income for my tuition, but he’s not going to help me.”

Alex

Alex, using a pseudonym, highlighted that he applied to Hopkins because of its renowned financial aid program in an interview with The News-Letter

“I just heard a lot of anecdotes, but after I got accepted, I realized there wasn’t anything... that said I received financial aid,” he said. 

When Alex contacted the financial aid office, he was informed that his financial aid was being processed. 

“The deadline [to commit] was coming up, and I had to deny the other school’s admission. I accepted being a Hopkins student. But by the time July rolled around, there was still nothing,” he said.

In July, Alex found out that his financial aid officer had changed without him being notified, and he reached out to his new officer. 

“I was told in the July–August range by my new financial officer that I was never being processed for aid... because my parents own property,” he said. “But the property is a family business, so it’s our only source of income.”

He noted that his sibling, who attends a peer institution, received over $50,000 in financial aid; his family was not prepared to pay full tuition to attend Hopkins. 

“I was going to take a gap year and apply to different schools, but since I’m a first [generation] student, my parents really wanted me to come here. We talked through a lot of things and eventually settled on coming here,” he said. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, Tom McDermott, associate vice provost for financial aid and executive director of student financial services, explained how special circumstances affect a student’s EFC.

“When we read those special circumstances, we’ll make an assessment whether or not it’s something we can help with,” he said. “We will work with the student to put forth the best federal aid package we can based on where that family is and what their current situation is.”

Diya

In an interview with The News-Letter, Diya, using a pseudonym, cited financial aid as a big help for her family. Her financial aid package increased prior to her sophomore and junior years. 

To cover rent and personal expenses, Diya works two jobs. She acknowledged that it is difficult to make ends meet, even with this additional income.

Diya also applied for financial aid to take summer classes but was told that there was limited aid available during the summer term, and thus had to return home. She expressed that she wishes aid was more widely available for all semesters, rather than mainly fall and spring.

“I tried to contact the Financial Aid office to see if there's any options. I was told that there's very limited financial aid, and there's really nothing they could do about it,” she said. “I wish they would have been more open about other kinds of grants they had or any other things that I could apply to, rather than being told we really can't do anything about it.”

Though she could apply for external scholarships to fund summer opportunities, Diya explained that she hesitates from seeking external funding because the additional grants are sometimes deducted from University awards. 

In his email, Bird clarified that the University must make financial aid decisions by taking into account external scholarships since the program is need-based. 

“When the addition of an outside/private scholarship exceeds calculated need, it creates an over award of need based aid which we are required to resolve,“ he wrote. “JHU will only reduce its need-based grant when all other options have been exhausted (e.g., we’ve reduced the student’s summer savings and/or work study expectation).”

Lisa

Lisa, a Gates scholar at Hopkins using a pseudonym, received a Life Design Lab (LDL) grant for summer 2022 to supplement the expenses of her unpaid research internship. Summer LDL grants are stipends for students who are participating in unpaid internships or volunteering over the summer to help them with cost-of-living and travel. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, she described how her Student Information System (SIS) account reflected that she had received a scholarship from the Center for Student Success (CSS) this semester.

“I scheduled an appointment with my financial aid officer. I said that I didn’t get a scholarship from CSS. I got this grant for the summer to pay for my summer experiences,” she said. “It had nothing to do with my academic work. It should have nothing to do with my fall or spring tuition.”    

Lisa was told that it was a mistake and that the LDL grant will not be reported in her financial aid. Later, the scholarship was still present in her SIS account. Contacting the financial aid office again, she was told that due to a new federal financial aid policy, all University grants, including during periods of non-enrollment, will be taken into account when the University calculates financial aid grants. 

Lisa expressed frustrations with the University’s financial aid office, saying that she did not know the LDL grant would become part of her financial aid. While her grant from the University was not affected, the Gates Foundation contributed a reduced amount towards her federal work study to reflect the University’s calculation of financial aid. 

“This was a grant given by the Life Design Lab, and the only reason financial aid knew about it is because it got disbursed by the University system,” she said.

McDermott highlighted that all grants given for periods of non-enrollment must be taken into account for the following school year. He emphasized that this is not a University policy.

“This is federal student aid policy. We’re required to account for EFA, estimated financial assistance,” he said. “We’re not doing this in a way to harm students intentionally. We’re just trying to adhere and follow the federal regulations.”

He added that for the majority of students who receive summer grants, the University rarely has to make a 1:1 ratio adjustment in financial aid. 

“You would get a $2500 grant for the summer and we might have to reduce your Hopkins aid by $300, or we might have to reduce your federal work-study award so that you can keep as much of the federal funds and the institutional funds as possible,” he said. 

As explained by Bird and McDermott, many of the restrictions on financial aid distributions are placed by the federal government

Regardless, students at the University believe that the institution can do more. 

“I know Hopkins still does great financial aid. It's just that some kids fall through the cracks when they shouldn’t,” Alex said. 


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