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Kudos To The Sun - - Revelation of Merit Based Financial Aid

Maybe there was something in their Thanksgiving dinner, but the for the last several days the Sun has been running the type of detailed articles about university policy and student life that it should be running day-in and day-out. Maybe it's just the last hurrah before finals start?

Consider this even-handed foray into the campus drug scene:

“Everybody does [cocaine],” said Sam,* 21, a junior who habitually uses cocaine and marijuana. “All of my friends do it or have done it. It’s just commonplace among us. Go into Johnny O’s, any number of the people dancing on tables are doing coke.”

These feelings are not uncommon among students who use illegal drugs.

“I think there are pockets of use where a number of people in a small group use [drugs], which make it seem that everybody is using them,” said Deb Lewis, alcohol projects coordinator at Gannett, who oversees programs regarding illegal drug use. “Part of what happens is that when people think about the prevalence, they think about the people they know. If they are using, it feels like everyone they know is using. When they stop and think about the totality of everyone at Cornell, they realize that it is not everyone.”

Or yesterday's article speculating just how much Cornell's endowment has lost in the last five months:

While Cornell’s “all-weather portfolio” has reached out internationally, C.U. moved investments from traditional stocks and bonds and put them into more volatile alternative investments, The Sun reported last November.

These alternative investments, such as private equity, real estate and hedged equity make up at least 41.7 percent of Cornell’s portfolio. Although they had enjoyed enormous rates of return prior to the recession, they were all “hit hard” in the recent crashes, according to Reuters.

And then there's today article which raises a very important point about the financial aid plan that was just announced:

The third component of the new program explains that selected students will receive more generous financial aid packages. According to Simeon Moss, director of Cornell press relations, selected students are those who already qualify for need-based aid and will contribute broadly to the diversity of Cornell. For a student coming from a family with $120,000 income and $200,000 assets, the current system would call for a parental contribution of $20,025. Under the new initiative, the parental contribution would be reduced to $12,500, leading to a savings of $30,100 over four years.

“Selecting students for greater aid based on certain characteristics of their candidacy, whether the student be an athlete or an underrepresented minority, is a fundamental change in financial aid policy,” Ryan Lavin ’09, S.A. president, said. “Students with the same financial need eligibility could have different packages under this new system.”

Compared to peer institutions, Cornell is behind in using their financial aid program to attract athletes more aggressively. Even though Lavin understands this shift will help Cornell maintain its competitive edge, he feels that it comes with some controversy.

So if you and your roommate have families with the same exact set of finances... say that you are twins, but one of you is a recruited lacrosse player and one of you is not, the lacrosse player will get a better "need-based aid package" than the other.

That sounds a lot like merit based financial aid to us.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on December 05, 2008 (#)

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