The Princeton Review has named the University of Richmond among the 13 colleges with the best financial aid.

"It's really exciting to work in a place that has that kind of commitment to be able to help students who might not otherwise be able to consider a Richmond education," said Cynthia Deffenbaugh, director of student financial aid.

Richmond has a need-blind admission process and is committed to meeting 100 percent of the demonstrated need of admitted students, Deffenbaugh said.

According to Sophomore Jon Overton, Richmond's financial aid program is helpful in that makes the school's cost closer to that of a state school.

"It's also helpful because it allows you to do a work-study program while you're here," Overton said.

The program is supported by the university's operating budget as well as endowed funds, she said.

Deffenbaugh said she did not think the worsening economy would have an impact on the financial aid program's commitment to meeting student aid.

"We're several years into this recession and we have maintained that commitment, and my expectation is that we plan to continue," she said.

However, according to Dr. Robert Nicholson, associate dean for undergraduate business programs and professor of Economics in the Robins School of Business, every university, even one like Richmond that has made such a strong commitment to student financial aid, has a financial limit.

One change affecting graduate students will be the removal of the origination fee rebate, Deffenbaugh said. Without a rebate graduate students will receive a smaller amount of their total loan.

"In summary, these changes will cause [law and graduate students] to pay more interest on their loans over time," Deffenbaugh said.

Nicholson said he was concerned that this would raise the overall debts of graduate students.

In the long run, statistics show, you will be better off [going to graduate school]," Nicholson said. "But it's just the question about how feasible it is.

"Graduate school is a good opportunity if you can piece it together and get aid from here and there."

According to Nicholson, education systems from kindergarten through graduate school have made large financial impacts on families.

"But the peculiar thing is, Richmond, up to this point, is almost an exception to the rule," he said. Richmond is extremely fortunate to have done well with endowment in harsh economic times and to have maintained small class sizes, Nicholson said.

"It is very admirable what they're doing," he said. "I think the only bad news about the University of Richmond is it's so small, if every large university in this country could do what Richmond does for its students it would be a whole different situation."

However, he said he heard that a long-run era of stagnation had been predicted and at some point even well-funded universities could be affected.

It is unclear when that effect would become noticeable. "Would it be five bad years or 10 bad years before Richmond started feeling the impact?" Nicholson said.

The unforeseeable stability of the United States economy may harvest concern from even the most prepared collegiate financial aid programs.

Contact staff writer Kylie McKenna at kylie.mckenna@richmond.edu

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