Need-based financial assistance is shamefully neglected in our educational system. Omitting platitudes about The American Dream, everyone suffers when any deserving student is denied the opportunity to be a doctor, teacher, nurse, or other professional, merely because they can’t afford to go to college. It is society’s loss when talent goes unrecognized. For it to happen in a nation with our resources is unconscionable.
That being said, the existing system does a questionable job of determining who is “in need.” Families who have conscientiously saved for their children’s education may have their sacrifices held against them, as they have money available. Financial aid decision-makers wield influence well beyond college assistance, as they have the ability to help to determine how much a family has left over for retirement, future medical expenses, or the proverbial “rainy day.” After college has been paid for, of course.
Picture two families, with the same number of children and the same income, living across the street from each other. Family A limits their vacations to an annual week of day trips, maybe a weekend in
Family B flies to
Family A had money in the bank for education; Family B does not. Who gets more financial aid? Family B, of course.
Also at issue is
If merit scholarships are to be eliminated, athletic free rides must also go. (In its current usage, “athletic scholarship” is an oxymoron.) The elimination of legacies would also be a reasonable step, as it would make available more spots for deserving students.
What’s needed is a sliding scale that considers both merit and financial circumstance, and defines financial circumstance as income, not savings. People who make more money have more flexibility in how they dispose of their resources. Let’s not reward their bad choices at the expense of others.
There is, obviously, an income level above which financial aid should not be considered. I think anyone absorbing the