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Note to Sun: Financial Aid is Growing, Not Shrinking

Judging from the title of an article in today's Cornell Daily Sun, a reader would suspect that Cornell is setting aside less money for financial aid:

Financial Aid Shrinks As Cornell’s Budget Increases

But astute readers of MetaEzra will remember that way back in June we reported that the University is budgeting a 6.4 percent increase in financial aid for the 2007-2008 academic year, representing close to $10 million dollars.

So what's the deal?

What is happening is that as Cornell's budget grows, a decreasing share of the budget is being dedicated to financial aid. Still, more money is being dedicated to financial aid every year.

Ben Eisen's article actually does a very good job of explaining why there has been a push for more administrative positions under Provost Martin as the University tries to reign in its decentralized functions, and that there are no easy trade-offs in academe:

While the administration’s allocated budget over the last 10 years has been raised, the amount set aside for financial aid, academic programs and the physical infrastructure has decreased 4.5 percent collectively, according to Cornell’s annual budget plan. This raises questions as to whether the administration’s allocation, which pays for some of these new positions as well as a number of services like health and safety and information technology, comes at the expense of other resources like financial aid and academics.

“The issue of, are we spending too much on administration and not enough on faculty is something faculty is always concerned about,” said Ehrenberg. “Faculty members may complain but, on the other hand, the faculty who benefit from what they are doing would not complain.”

According to Ehrenberg, Cornell could do more to provide financial aid. “The wealthiest competitors [to Cornell] have improved their aid packages substantially,” Ehrenberg said. “My personal perception is that we should be devoting more resources to financial aid, but I’m not the president or the provost in that they have to make all of these balances.”

“There is nothing but a set of tradeoffs,” Martin said. “Every penny we spend on administration raises a question in our minds about what we might be able to do less of as a consequence of doing more of that … [But] is there is a direct trade off between funds for administrative needs on the one hand and financial aid on the other? No, not in so simple a way.”

In fact, this, combined with a separate article on rising administrative costs by Suzy Gustafson, may very well be the best Sun articles I have read about the administration of the University and its finances ever. Kudos to Eisen and Gustafson.

But unfortunately, an improperly titled article isn't going to help to educate the casual reader.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on October 10, 2007 (#)

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