FinAid says Carleton’s “doing its best” on need-sensitive aid
by Jennifer Kwon
While increasing number of liberal arts colleges are following the trend of implementing a need-blind aid policy, Carleton continues to admit students on a need-sensitive basis.
Paul Thiboutot, the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, clarified that Carleton “will attempt to be need-blind to the fullest extent it can be”. It means that the college will practice need-blind until the set budget is exhausted and then apply the need-sensitive policy to a small pool of applicants, usually around 10 to 15 percent.
“We approach the admissions process as if we are entirely need-blind, and then we stop at a certain point and take a snapshot of it to see the projections of our financial aid commitment,” he said. “If we can’t afford at some point, we have to make some adjustments.”
Thiboutot emphasized that the college does not separate the pool of applicants into those who are in need of aid and those who are not.
Students in consideration for acceptance are not only evaluated based on their financial need, but also on factors such as test scores, gender, race, ethnicity, and national origin.
“All of these students are well qualified academically to be here, so there are more subjective matters that come into play,” explained Rodney Oto, Associate Dean of Admissions and Director of Student Financial Services. “One of the factors is the amount of financial assistance the student is going to need.”
Both Thiboutot and Oto strongly supported the idea behind the need-blind policy but also agreed that it requires a significant commitment of resources that Carleton does not have available at present.
The financial difficulties and budget constraints that would arise from having a need-blind policy may lead to inadequate distribution of endowments and loans. Though financial aid does take up a large portion of school funds, there are other significant costs to consider, like faculty member salaries, to maintain the college’s attractiveness and ability to compete with peer schools.
“There are two major groups where costs are sensitive to, one is the students and the other is faculty personnel,” Oto commented. “We want to make sure there are outstanding teachers, faculty who are interested in teaching, and we want them to stay.”
Even if the college decides to change its financial policy to need-blind, the reality may not be as ideal as it seems. There are a number of colleges that guarantee need-blind admissions, but fail to provide the full amount of aid to help students continue their studies after they are accepted.
“When some people think of need-blind, they assume that the school will admit anyone unconditionally, meet their full need, and give scholarships,” Thiboutot said. “But there are schools that claim to be need-blind but do not meet all of the students’ need. Some schools may give 100 percent but mostly in forms of loans, instead of scholarships.”
Even though the policy of need-sensitive aid continues at Carleton, the college is constantly striving to increase the amount of financial aid for the students. Oto recently addressed the board of trustees for more financial assistance to make sure there is sufficient aid for the students.
The students, in general, are satisfied with the Carleton’s current aid policy. More than half of the first-year students, approximately 52 percent, received need-based grants and scholarships that do not need to be repaid. Many students credit their choice of Carleton to receiving the most generous aid package than anywhere else.
“When applying to colleges, it’s not uncommon for students to pay attention to financial aid packages when considering what colleges to attend,” a sophomore student, Kifaya Taha said. “For me, Carleton was able to provide me with a very generous financial aid package. This was one among many reasons that I decided to come here.”
This article was published by The Carletonian (February 13, 2015)