Mad Weiss ’09 chimes in on the aid issue prompted by this post:
I’d like to quote an interesting comment on President Roth’s blog by the parent of a prospective student:
“For many in the middle class, especially here in the northeast where our cost of living is higher than elsewhere, based upon the aid calculators, we will not qualify for much, or maybe any need-based aid. We are not wealthy. We are not poor. We just can’t afford what the politicians in Washington create based not upon our true need, rather based upon what they want to fund. When colleges use that as their starting point, they are embracing a false premise and as a result just perpetuating the inherent unfairness of it all. If Wesleyan relly wanted to do more and be FAIR, it wouldn’t just look to the real need of some of its students, but would embrace ALL of them, even those in the middle. Parse it any way you want, currently, Wesleyan does not. For many middle class students that fall into this never-never land created by a politically based federal formula and the schools that use it for cover, merit aid is the only way their families will be able to afford to send them to a private shcool. Wesleyan, and it is not alone, though there are schools that take a differnet view, is electing to turn its back on the majority of excellent students that have the credentials and would like to apply. I wonder how many students choose not to apply because of the lack of merit aid.”
Now, I disagree with her. First of all, the issue of merit aid – I think that this builds upon the competitive “ranking” of students that I came to Wesleyan to avoid. You’re accepted to Wesleyan, and belong to be a student here, or you aren’t. Even this division is tough, but clearly needs to be made to (a) meet the physical limitations of the Wesleyan school size and (b) keep Wesleyan a top academic institution and continue attracting some of the brightest high school students.
However, once you start saying that this student belongs here so much that we’re going to give them some extra money if they choose Wesleyan, you run into problems.
To be honest, it’s precisely that this parent’s claim that that the merit aid policy would disproportionately affect middle class kids rings true, that frightens me. There are a lot of inequalities in education these days, and merit aid would wind up going to students with the highest SAT scores from competitive high schools – precisely those kids more likely to be middle and upper middle class – rather than looking at the whole picture.
Furthermore, of course Wesleyan doesn’t have the endowment for this right now.
If Wesleyan made any changes in its financial aid policy, I’d hope they’d be toward offering more and better need-based financial aid, like Harvard, instead of going toward merit aid.
Btw, President Roth, if you happen to read this comment – I like what you said in your followup entry. Keep at it :D