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SOU fills gap on grants

Southern Oregon University will make up as much as $90,000 in grant money its students would have lost because of the state's shortfall, the university announced Wednesday.

The state ran out of money for the Oregon Opportunity Grant and would have stiffed full-time students $80 and part-time students $40 in the spring semester. About 1,200 SOU students would have been affected, according to the university.

SOU will use tuition money to provide the extra grant funding — a one-time allocation, said Peg Blake, SOU dean of enrollment management.

"You've got these students who have been counting on whatever dollar amount they would have been given and now we're going to be short," Blake said. "And we here at Southern Oregon said, 'We can't do that to our students. We've got to find a way to make that up.'"

The state was short money for the grants due to a drop in income tax and lottery revenue, brought on by the recession, SOU officials said. Students receiving the grants would have seen the $80 or $40 cuts halfway through the school year, in the spring term.

"In the whole scheme of things it doesn't sound like a whole lot of money, but it may equal the textbooks that they need for one or two of their classes," Blake said. "It is an important amount of money and it can make the difference."

More than 60 percent of SOU students receive need-based financial aid, she added.

Kelli Horvath, SOU student body president and chair of the Oregon Student Association student board of directors, said students will be grateful that the university has decided to fill the gap.

"When it comes to funding higher education, literally every dollar counts," she said. "Students are literally some of those people in the world who are living paycheck to paycheck, or I guess, grant check to grant check."

Other Oregon State Universities are also planning to use their own money to cover shortfalls in student grants.

SOU officials fear the cuts may only grow worse, Blake said.

"I think we're all worried about the state's budget for next year and the impact that's going to have on education. I think it would be naïve to think that this (Oregon Opportunity Grant) program wouldn't be one that they would look at in terms of being trimmed somewhat," she said.

Staff writer Hannah Guzik can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.