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Enhanced Aid Redux

The Sun has followed up on our reporting about Cornell's pullback from "enhanced financial aid for athletes" with an article of its own. Curiously, however, the Sun does not cite either this publication or Inside Higher Ed -- who, combined, broke the story -- in their own article.

Reads the article:

While the initiative was aimed at aggressively recruiting students of academic excellence, diversity and athleticism, the Ivy League saw the inclusion of athletes in the program as a violation of the league's ban on athletic scholarships.

Although Cornell and the Ivy League administrators disagreed on the legality of Cornell's financial aid program, their confrontation seemed to be somewhat amicable.

"Cornell fully cooperated, publicly announced the program and requested all requested information, and when the Ivy League decided that it did not comply, the University modified its rules," Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said.

Though the University maintained that its policy continued to represent a "need-based" approach to financial aid, some people argued that the initiative leaned closer toward a "merit-based" distribution of aid.

"We felt as a University that our practices were in accordance with Ivy League practice but they disagree," Deputy University Spokesperson Simeon Moss said. "There was no investigation. The Ivy League just informed us that part of our practice [needed to be changed] and we changed it."

Cornell will still look to its new financial aid as a way for the University to remain competitive against schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton, whose greater endowment-size and more generous financial aid packages place them into a league of their own.


Thus, the problem that Cornell faces in their financial aid for athletes does not just pertain to athletes. "Athletics is just the most visible," Ehrenberg said. "If you lose someone interested in economics, it's just not as visible."

Interestingly, however, the University may still try to offer enhanced aid to athletes, only through a different channel:

Despite these recent setbacks, Cornell administrators remain optimistic in the University’s ability to attract high quality scholar athletes regardless of financial aid.

“It helped in our recruiting but we can move forward and still recruit at a high level,” Moss said. “We have a lot to offer as a University to enroll a consistently excellent class, including scholar-athletes.”

Since Cornell already promised these financial benefits to selected scholar athletes in Cornell’s Class of 2013 and Class of 2014, these students will continue to receive the agreed-upon benefits, Moss added.

In addition, although student athletes will no longer receive preferential treatment in financial aid consideration based solely on their status as an athlete, some of those students will still qualify for the more lucrative aid packages with other criteria, according to Moss.

"We are still continuing with our enhanced financial aid with our priority students,” he said.

But I love the quote from the new executive director of the Ivy League office, which is completely non-nonsensical:

Harris, the executive director of the Ivy League, said that she recognizes the inevitability of differences among schools but explained that the Ivy League ensures that such differences are not systemic.

“The Ivy League recognizes the importance of interleague competition, so that league and every team in every league has a chance to be successful,” Harris said. “Every school is going to have unique advantages over other schools. There is never going to be complete equity. What we’re making sure is that every school has the opportunity to be competitive.”

Cornell was trying to get itself on equal footing with the Harvard's of the world by offering somewhat comparable financial aid to its athletes. But apparently per Harvard, Yale, and Princeton's logic that makes Cornell policies anti-competitive.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on January 22, 2010 (#)

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