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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Financial aid woes

By Eliza-Eva Leas

The new sticker-price to attend Grinnell and live on-campus, $46,325 could buy 52 round-trip plane tickets from New York to Tokyo. Or 3,750 DVDs, maybe 4,000, if that seems more practical $45,012 could pay for two and a half years at some top-tier state universities, like instate tuition at the University of Iowa.

Even though the college curbs it’s staggering price tag by providing financial aid for 60 percent of the student body by an average of 50 percent of tuition, and meets full demonstrated need, President Russell K. Osgood believes more should be done for middle-class students who may be left out in the cold by financial aid practices at schools across the country.
In a June 11 article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Osgood wrote about how the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) pinches middle-income families disproportionately. He advocated for adjusting the form annually based on cost of living, with attention paid to the realistic needs of middle-income families.

“At the lower part of the middle [income range], FAFSA may be understating people’s need. We would like the federal government to recompute the array of need, mainly at the middle,” Osgood said in an interview.

The government uses the FAFSA to estimate how much a family can contribute based on the parent’s yearly income, and family assets. For some families, especially those in the middle class, the final figure can be as much as 20 percent of their pre-tax income. The government bases its federal aid on this number. Grinnell then contributes its own money to make up the difference between how much federal aid is given, and how much families need.
The College cannot give students more than what the federal form says that they need, or it would forfeit the federal aid. The College makes allowances for families that care for grandparents, or pay private school tuition for a sibling, which not all colleges choose to do. The Financial Aid office is also known to be flexible regarding FAFSA guidelines in extreme circumstances, according to Associate Director of Financial Aid Gretchen Zimmerman.

“If we have a family that comes to us with high medical expenses…or a family in which a parent has lost a job, or both parents have lost jobs [we can try to help,]” Zimmerman said.
The College tries to curb dept by capping loans at $2,000, something that Osgood sees as a positive trend .

“A bunch of our peers who also went to no loans or low loans are now abandoning that. We’re not going to abandon that. We are committed to that,” Osgood said.

Zimmerman and Arnold Woods, the Director of Financial Aid, emphasized our need-blind admissions and a program that meets full demonstrated need as the core of why Grinnell seems to be more generous than other schools.

“The big difference is the way that we award aid…We have a simplified formula which says that we will give you a little bit of loan, a little bit of work, and the rest will be free money,” Woods said.
Zimmerman described how many schools give the best and brightest students bigger aid packages, or accept students who can pay at a higher rate than students who cannot. President Osgood disagrees with that kind of practice, and sees it as being contrary to our ideology.

“Our view of our financial aid is linked to our view of life. Something wonderful, like a Grinnell education, should not be a function strictly of one’s ability to pay,” Osgood said.

Even with Grinnell’s specific policies and flexibility, the FAFSA is the major determinant in how much financial aid students receive. Osgood, Woods and Zimmerman hope to see it change in the future to reflect families’ realistic needs and put less pressure on certain income ranges. If the government does not reformulate the FAFSA, they may look to changes Grinnell can make in the way we interpret it.

“We still want one FAFSA, but if after a number of years [the government does not] do it, we would consider making further changes to our own interpretation of FAFSA,” Osgood said.

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