When a coalition of 29 college and university presidents recently formalized uniform standards for determining how much financial aid undergraduates should qualify for, they took a significant step forward in streamlining the financial aid system and, hopefully, in making higher education more affordable for needy students.
The uniform standards will go into effect this fall, and the schools that follow them will now use the same formulas for computing need. That is a change from the current, often confusing system in which schools can vary widely in their assessments of how much a family can pay — its “demonstrated need.” Now, a family’s demonstrated need will be the same at Duke as it is at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University or any one of the other 29 schools in the 568 Presidents’ Working Group. For parents, it means simpler, less confusing applications and for students, it means being able to compare financial aid packages on the same footing.
At the same time, the new standards still leave room for competition among universities, which can, and will, offer differing packages to meet a family’s demonstrated need. This competition ensures that financial aid will continue to increase, to the benefit of students.
Of course, students should express concern whenever a group of powerful institutions collude to establish uniform standards. There is certainly a danger that with standards being adjusted at many schools, some students will actually receive less financial aid under the new plan.
A responsive financial aid program is essential to creating a competitive, diverse student body, and the University has greatly helped that cause through the 568 Presidents’ Working Group.
University Wire — Duke U.