Designed by Anna Simoneau

Student Opportunity Fund aids students in extracurricular activities


Lehigh will be raising tuition by $2,400 for the 2017-18 academic year, according to an email sent out by the Office of Finance and Administration. With the addition of housing, a meal plan and technology fees, this brings the grand total of the cost of attendance to about $64,060 per year.

However, this is not the sole cost of being a Lehigh student. Many college-related activities, such as joining a Greek chapter, doing research or studying abroad, require additional funds.

Forty percent of Lehigh students are on some form of institutional need-based aid, said Jennifer Mertz, the director of financial aid.

Mertz said students who receive financial aid are given funds to cover some or all of tuition, as well as a $1,000 book estimate and $1,065 in miscellaneous personal expenses. The money given for personal expenses can be used for activities throughout the year.

To join a Greek chapter, students must be able to take on additional expenses such as higher housing costs and chapter dues. Mertz said the financial aid office is able to help students secure a loan to increase their budget. However, this might not be an option for all students who have already taken on significant loans.

The work-study program is another way students can make extra money in addition to financial aid. Mertz said this option is available to any student with self-help as a part of their financial aid package. It can be anywhere from $1,500 to $2,200 in additional work-study money.

“Most offices on campus will have at least a work study student or two,” Mertz said. “So there’s a lot of variety on types of jobs and some are more flexible than others.”

Outside of the financial aid office, students can use the Student Opportunity Fund to pay for opportunities such as training seminars, conferences, workshops and development seminars.

Katherine Lavinder, the interim dean of students, said the Student Opportunity Fund is donor-funded and is designed to provide professional development or other involvement experience that a student wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

Jess Manno, the director of Student Life Curriculum and Staff Development, said unlike some other schools, Lehigh doesn’t charge an activities fee because they understand tuition is high and want students to be able to be involved around campus.

Sarah Dudney, ’17, used the student opportunity fund to attend the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Seismic Design Competition in Portland, Oregon. She said the purpose was to design a structure out of balsa wood, which would then be subjected to different earthquakes.

“The fund made my participation possible, and I have learned so much from being able to compete in Portland,” Dudney said.

She said the opportunity fund is important because not everyone at Lehigh comes with the same resources, so it allows students to try new things without the fear of not being able to participate because of cost.

Manno said the opportunity fund has been used for things like the Hyperloop competition, SERVE trips and fraternity and sorority leadership conferences. She said last year about 260 students applied for the fund and 250 were accepted.

Lavinder said they’re limited in how much they can pay for some study abroad experiences, but most people who apply for the fund are accepted.

When it comes to studying abroad, Mertz said students’ financial aid packages are the same during the fall or spring even if students decide to do an abroad program.

“Sometimes the cost for a meal plan and housing is more abroad, so it may not cover everything, but it seems to be more affordable way to cover study abroad costs than borrowing a loan in the summer or winter,” Mertz said.

Manno said the Dean of Students department might offer a scholarship to students participating in any program or opportunity that has a charge attached.

“There are some students who say if I didn’t have help with that I wouldn’t be able to sign up,” Manno said. “We will offer scholarships to as many folks as we can and make sure that funding isn’t an issue.”

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