No need-blind at Lafayette
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 23:03
Many colleges and universities across the country are looking to make changes in the way they administer financial aid and scholarships. But, Lafayette will not be making changes to the financial aid process, apart from adding athletic scholarships.
Like most schools, Lafayette has two different types of aid—scholarships, which are based on merit or athletics, and need-based aid, which is based on a student’s economic situation. The biggest difference between the two is that the value of a scholarship is kept constant all four years, while need-based aid is revaluated and adjusted from year-to-year. Every student has to reapply for this type of assistance each year.
The Office of Financial Aid does its best to prevent any confusion about the differences in the types of aid, noting on all offers whether the award will remain the same all four years or if it has the possibility of changing annually.
Director of Financial Aid Arlina DeNardo said the office tries to use “specific language” in the letters to educate families about the differences in types of aid. DeNardo also mentioned the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which mandates anyone receiving a federal loan be educated about the details of the process. This avoids a great deal of misunderstanding, she said.
According to DeNardo, it is best to maintain the process in which students reapply for financial aid annually because it allows the college to compensate for any changes in employment or family life.
“Circumstances can change,” she said. “It is not unreasonable for a student’s financial aid to go up or to go down.”
If students are unhappy with the amount of aid awarded, they can appeal the decision. A committee of financial aid officers will then complete a secondary review and meet to reevaluate the request.
“We try to meet the needs of families especially with the changes in the economy,” DeNardo said.
The scholarships and financial aid are provided mostly through endowments or through government funding. For the 2011-2012 school years, the college awarded approximately $35 million in both need and non-need based aid, including the Marquis, POSSE and athletic scholarships.
DeNardo also said the financial aid budget has continued to increase every year since costs for students have continued to rise. Even with the introduction of athletic scholarships, the school provides financial aid to as many students as possible. In 2011-2012, the average need-based package for a student was $36,700.
A portion of that aid comes from the government in the form of federal or state grants, like Pell Grants or PHEAA, with the other portion being made up from the endowment and from operating revenue.
Some private colleges are attempting to make the switch to a need-blind admissions process. This would mean students’ financial situations would not factor into their admission. However, most schools cannot guarantee the students’ needs will be met. There are only six institutions in the U.S. that are need-blind and meet the full need of students: Amherst, Dartmouth, MIT, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
DeNardo considers Lafayette to be “need-aware or need-sensitive.” The college tries to meet the needs of its students, but will not make the switch to offering need-blind and full-need admissions.
Many need-blind schools have a lack of economic diversity among their student populations. Additionally, meeting the full need of students despite their financial situations would become very costly, very quickly.
“Lafayette is very fortunate to have what we have for our population size,” DeNardo said. “But there’s not an unlimited pool of funds.”