The number of students who have changed their financial aid status because of parents losing jobs has more than doubled since last fall.
This year 90 students have filed changes to financial aid, compared with 44 the previous year, said Cynthia Deffenbaugh, director of student financial aid.
Approximately 50 percent of students receive need-based financial aid, and 70 percent receive some form of aid to attend Richmond, Deffenbaugh said
The numbers are a part of a larger trend at Richmond. This year's larger class, in addition to the down economy, has increased the amount of financial assistance students need.
Hossein Sadid, vice president of business and finance, said the greater need for financial aid had put added pressure on a budget already squeezed by 14-percent endowment losses last fiscal year.
"Two things have happened," Sadid said. "First is that family wealth has gone down, average net worth has gone down and people have lost jobs. That is not unique to Richmond. That has been across the board.
"What is unique to Richmond is that we are committed to access and affordability. It is part of the strategic plan. We are dedicated to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need."
Sadid said that despite last year's endowment losses exceeding the university's annual budget, the school was still in a strong financial position and would be able to continue offering the same assistance to students.
"We've seen some improvements in the markets recently," Sadid said. "Fluctuation is inherent in this business but higher education is still one of the more stable industries out there."
In September The Collegian reported that the endowment had rebounded significantly during recent months, increasing in value by approximately 11 percent. The endowment was worth about 1.5 billion as of Aug. 30.
But despite improvements in the school's financial position, the number of students who have left because of personal financial reasons has increased as well. For Richmond College, about 14 percent of the men left the school last year left because of financial considerations, which is up slightly from the previous year.
Of the 73 Westhampton College students who left last year, 10 cited financial concerns, Dean Juliette Landphair said.
"I can't say that we've seen a discernable trend," said Richmond College Dean Joseph Boehman, "but I suspect that as [the downturn] continues, we may see those numbers rise."
Richmond College helps in any way it can, Boehman said, but there is no way for the school to know about student's financial situations unless the student volunteers the information.
"We have tried to help students in whatever way we can," he said. "It's one of those situations where I wish I just had a safe in my office that I could open and just give students money, but I don't. Richmond College has the authority to award a few scholarships, but they are not much - $1,000 to $2,000."
Boehman said many of those scholarships came with stipulations such as students being required to have a certain GPA or to have alumni parents.
"Again, we try to help," he said. "We don't guarantee anything because we can't."
For Deffenbaugh, the most important thing students facing financial trouble can do is to talk to someone in the Financial Aid office.
"I would encourage students who are having these issues to let us know as soon as possible," she said. "We want to help in any way we can."
Contact reporter David Larter at firstname.lastname@example.org