Part One of Two: Rising tuition causes financial stress

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    Each year, Becky Ramirez’s student loans grow. Even though her tuition payments steadily increase, Ramirez’s financial aid has remained stagnant since she was accepted to TCU. She hasn’t always been certain that she could stay.”I’ve almost left a few times,” she said.

    Ramirez, a senior biology major, said TCU’s cost, which has increased by almost $12,000 since 2000, and will go up by $1,700 for the 2006-2007 academic year, is what keeps some applicants from deciding to choose TCU.

    Money is just one piece of the puzzle.

    A diverse campus

    Administrators have been left with the question of how to increase student diversity despite the rising education costs.

    Although the diversity of applicants is increasing, administrators say there is a disconnect between acceptance to TCU and enrollment.

    It’s a trend that administrators are trying to piece together, said Darron Turner, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs.

    Although freshman minority student enrollment was at an all-time high this fall at 15 percent, it is getting harder to diversify the campus, said Mike Scott, director of scholarships and student financial aid.

    “There’s a combination of factors, of which cost is one of them,” Scott said. “There’s more pieces to the puzzle.”

    Dean of Admissions Ray Brown said it is harder to get certain groups of students, including minorities, to enroll simply because other schools are also trying to recruit them.

    “When you have a group of students who are more highly sought after, it is more difficult to enroll them,” Brown said. “We don’t have as many coming as we would hope, but every year it has been more than the year before.”

    The struggle with money

    Cynthia Montes walked across the graduation stage in May, but she hasn’t received her diploma. Six months after graduating, she still has an outstanding balance on her account.

    “My first year was horrible,” Montes said. “I went to financial aid and felt like I was going in circles.”

    Montes received help from Student Support Services with its Trio Program and from Student Development Services, which steered her in the direction of several scholarship awards.

    There were several instances where Montes almost didn’t return.

    “If there was anything that I stressed about more than schoolwork, it was finances,” Montes said.

    She said she enrolled on time only one semester.

    Montes said the price to attend TCU weeds out people from certain backgrounds.

    “People don’t really like to struggle,” she said. “They want to know, ‘how am I going to make it through these next four years?