Financial aid is an important, if not determining, factor to take into account when deciding which college to attend. Students ruminate about financial aid packages when selecting a college, but many students often don’t consider the possibility of their financial aid changing after enrollment. Many students’ financial aid packages are reevaluated each year, leaving several students surprised to find their aid drastically cut despite similar financial circumstances.
Although slight changes ina given family’s income are a natural occurrence, the Wellesley News Editorial Staff believes that financial aid should be guaranteed within a range and should not be cut drastically over a student’s Wellesley career. In any case, students should not have to abandon their Wellesley education because the administration chooses to decrease their financial aid.
The News staff writes this editorial amidst increased controversy over fluctuation. Last year, a Wellesley sophomore, Sooyeon “Soo” Kim ‘17, had to take a medical leave of absence. As the current sole provider of her financial support, Soo has been working full-time in order to pay for her return to Wellesley. Soo does receive financial aid; however, it is not sufficient. In order to help pay off a second semester at Wellesley, Soo, along with working, is using crowd-funding on Indiegogo and has received 127 donations as of February 22.
Wellesley promises to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need for admitted students. The average grant awarded to students at Wellesley is $39,000. Last year, 58 percent of students received aid; a total of $53.5 million financial aid scholarships support Wellesley students. These numbers show that many students need financial aid— and financial security. Especially given the recent hike in tuition, students need to be able to plan their finances more than two semesters in advance.
In recent years, the actions of Student Financial Services (SFS) have shown that Wellesley students do not have financial security when it comes to aid. On campus, a large percentage of our community is aware of students who have been forced to take a leave of absence due to financial concerns or, in some cases, transfer to a public university closer to home to save costs.
Soo’s story is an example of what is wrong with the current financial aid system at Wellesley. There have been similar cases of students’ financial aid awards changing by significant amounts from one year to the next without justification.
The Wellesley web-page on financial aid awards warns that “contribution (and subsequent financial aid) may change significantly due to additional circumstances.” Such circumstances include the number of siblings in college, employment, salary changes or inheritance and debt. Even if SFS always justified financial aid changes, the unpredictability of these changes render preparing for financial aid cuts difficult.
If we pride ourselves on being an equal opportunity institution that is supportive of students’ financial needs, the College cannot just meet the needs of applicants and ignore the needs of enrolled students. The College must provide consistent financial aid if it hopes to maintain socioeconomic diversity on campus.
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