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image: Campus NewsConsortium adopts new financial-aid guidelines
Chicago joins with other schools in agreeing to emphasize need over merit.

The U of C and 27 other private colleges and universities have agreed on new financial-aid guidelines for undergraduates.

The goal of the group, which includes Ivy League schools and other elite colleges, is to redirect aid to the neediest students rather than the most prized. Officials hope the new guidelines will stop the bidding wars between colleges for high academic achievers, athletes, and underrepresented minorities.

Although the University may not immediately adopt all the guidelines, says vice president for College enrollment Michael C. Benhke, "these are principles we really agree with." He explains: "Merit-based aid influences where a student goes to college. Need-based aid influences if a student goes to college.... The statement made here is that the first principle of aid should be based on need."

The College will continue to award merit-based aid, but Alicia Reyes, director of College aid, says, "We are very different from most Ivy League schools in that we are very up-front about merit scholarships." This past year the College gave $3.6 million in merit-based awards, against $30.2 million in need-based aid.

The University joined the consortium, says Behnke, after the group's leader, Cornell University President Hunter R. Rawlings III, asked Chicago President Don M. Randel-Cornell's former provost-for his support.

The agreement won't require much change in policy, Reyes says, because the College already meets most of the guidelines. Some minor changes will be made, but Reyes predicts they won't happen until the 2003-04 school year.

For example, the College's financial-aid officers, who factor in the higher costs of living in Alaska and Hawaii, may soon add New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., to that list. The biggest potential change is in the expected student contribution. Traditional formulas for calculating financial aid penalize students who save for college, causing families to shuffle assets. Under the new guidelines, participating institutions won't expect students to contribute a large percentage of their savings.

"In this area, [the College] is in sharp disagreement with the guidelines," Reyes says, because Chicago simply can't afford to make that change. "There's still a lot of internal debate on what we can do, what we should do, and what we can afford to do."

"It's a work in progress," Behnke adds, "but we certainly agree with the principles." - W.W.


  OCTOBER 2001

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