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Cornell Eliminates Parental Contributions

This is big news.

We wonder where the money will come from. Maybe CIO James Walsh has been shorting the S&P 500?

"In the current volatile and difficult economic circumstances, many current and prospective college students and their families are concerned about the affordability of a university education. Particularly at this unsettling time, Cornell University must open its doors even wider," said President David J. Skorton.

"Our new policy will allow students, despite the current economic conditions, to be able to choose Cornell and to thrive here. With these enhancements, we will have the best chance each year to attract the strongest class," said Cornell Interim Provost David Harris.

The three components of the new financial aid initiative are:

1) Eliminate the parental contribution for students from families with incomes below $60,000 and assets below $100,000.

2) Cap need-based student loans at $7,500 annually for students who have financial need and whose families have annual incomes above $120,000.

3) Reduce the parental contribution for selected students who have financial need and whose families have annual incomes above $60,000.

Cornell already eliminates need-based student loans for family incomes below $60,000 (the income level will rise to $75,000 in Fall 2009), and annually caps need-based student loans at $3,000 for family incomes between $60,000 and $120,000.

Frankly, this is an interesting development. The conventional wisdom is that in an economic downturn a university would invest relatively more in faculty and facilities than in students, because whereas students are on campus for at most a couple of years, faculty and facilities can affect the stature of the institution for decades to come.

So color me surprised. I do like this little barb, though:

When considering how to enhance financial aid, Cornell has a unique set of challenges, Harris said. Not only is Cornell larger than many of its peers, it is also more socio-economically diverse. In fall 2007, Cornell had 1,863 undergraduates, or about 14 percent of its undergraduates, receiving federal Pell Grants, typically awarded to students whose family incomes are below $45,000. Harris pointed out that this is roughly the same number of Pell grant recipients as are enrolled at Yale, Princeton and Harvard combined.

This should get good press in the papers.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on November 13, 2008 (#)

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