Aid increases decrease opportunities

April 16, 2008 — by Gautham Ganesan

This story originally appeared in the February 15, 2008 edition of The Saratoga Falcon

Recent decisions by Yale and Harvard to significantly increase financial aid for students of middle-class families (defined as families accruing $120,000 to $180,000 annually) have been met with fanfare nationwide. Although this is terrific news for students of Yale, Harvard and other wealthy, high-end universities with endowments in the tens of billions, it would be wrong not to discuss the inevitable repercussions of these moves.

The increase in aid implemented by these Ivy League schools will likely pressure other four-year private universities across the country to follow suit. The problem arises from the fact that many of these universities simply can’t afford to aid middle- and upper-middle class applicants in the same manner as Yale and Harvard without it coming at the expense of individuals with lesser financial stature.
According to the New York Times, more than 90 percent of the nation’s colleges have less than 1 percent the endowment of Harvard. This supports the notion that in order for the average college to emulate Ivy League standards, the aid provided to more needy individuals would have to be reduced.

Ivy League schools and other elite universities already inherently favor the wealthy. While affirmative action policies ensure that admission is granted with at least somewhat of a sense of class equality, there are few low-income individuals who are able to afford such high tuition fees even if they are given financial aid.

In a country that boasts of ostensibly equal opportunity, universities, especially those with the prestige of the Ivy Leagues, should seek to allot as much aid as possible for less fortunate students rather than ease the financial burden on middle-class families and indirectly force other colleges to do the same.
While Harvard and Yale are largely to blame for their ill-advised competition to determine which can provide greater financial aid to high-income applicants, the federal government should also take charge in providing more grants to needy students, sacrificing potential short-term budget deficits for long-term economic prosperity. Otherwise, deserving yet financially disadvantaged students across America will have less chance of getting a top-flight college education.

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