Niagara University is among three other local Roman Catholic colleges that 'opted' into the state's new financial aid program. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says Niagara is part of just one-third of private colleges who signed up for the Enhanced Tuition Award program.
"While it wasn't a perfect solution, we thought it was an opportunity once we studied it to say let's work with the current system and align it with our values on access and affordability,” said Father James Maher, president of Niagara University.
Like other private colleges, Niagara is generous in providing financial to its students. Last year 98 percent of eligible Niagara students received more than $44 million in financial aid.
Father Maher told WBFO News by joining the tuition program, as part of the state’s Excelsior Scholarship program, it could open up future dialog with the state.
"And the work with the legislature, the executive branch, other partners as well and say how we can make this more effective to serve students and families, so we looked at it and studied it pretty significantly,” explained Maher.
The Enhanced Awards program provides up to $6,000 for students at the private colleges. In Western New York, Niagara joins Canisius College, Hilbert College and Trocaire College in ‘opting in’ to the Enhanced Tuition Awards program.
Maher was a bit critical for the state’s lack of public conversation surrounding the program with the private schools.
“One of the weaknesses – I think of what was put forward, there wasn’t, in my view, sufficient engagement and dialog with the public and the independent and private sector on higher education, so when policy moves forward in that way – it usually limps – because you haven’t really engaged the stakeholders in a full and sufficient way and so I think there’s an opportunity now to say let’s learn from some of those mistakes,” remarked Maher.
Maher said it has been challenging to get the awards program in place for the upcoming fall semester. Niagara has established a hotline for families to answer questions. More than three dozen calls on the tuition were fielded at Niagara.
D'Youville College in Buffalo and Daemen College in Amherst both 'opted out' of the Enhanced tuition program.