University keeps need-blind aid policy

By Pat Higgins | The Duquesne Duke

As schools around the country have recently decided to stray from need-blind financial aid policies, Duquesne has embraced theirs.

When college admission offices abide by a need-blind policy, a student’s financial situation is not a variable in his or her admission to a University.

Some schools around the country, including Wesleyan University and Grinnell College, have chosen to reconsider their need-blind admissions policies to cater to students who can pay for their education.

Duquesne has stuck with their need-blind policy. Paul-James Cukanna, associate provost for Enrollment Management at Duquesne, said that though the University does not meet 100 percent of students’ financial needs, they are a need-blind institution that does not accept or reject students on ability or inability to pay.

Cukanna also said the University is actively working to maximize aid available to students by controlling annual increases in costs around campus because “it’s important that we provide a quality education at a price that’s affordable.”

Although Duquesne, like most other schools nationwide, cannot meet 100 percent of students’ needs, its student loan default rate of 1.9 percent in 2007 was well below the national average of 6.7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the Duquesne’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning.

The federal government subsidizes loans for students where interest begins to accrue after graduation. As of July 1, 2012, the six-month grace period following graduation where federally subsidized loans remain interest-free no longer exists, according to a report from US News in early July.

“Access and choice in higher education are critical to us [at Duquesne].”

Paul-James Cukanna

Associate Provost

A 2008 report from The Institute for College Access and Success said colleges gave $3.3 billion in aid to students in 2005-06, a mark that falls $2.4 billion short of total student need. In the report, TICAS states that “this comparison demonstrates that colleges are distributing large sums of grant aid in excess of need without meeting the full need of other lower-income students.”

The TICAS report also suggests that colleges and students may both be negatively affected is schools are need-blind without the ability to meet a student’s full financial aid need.

Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.com and FastWeb.com, said he agrees with the national perspective on unmet financial needs and sees the dangers they bring along.

“It does no good to admit a student without regard to their financial aid if you’re not going to give them the financial aid they need to afford the college,” Kantrowitz said. “They’ll graduate with too much debt and they’ll eventually default on the loans. If you’re going to have a need-blind admission policy, give them the aid they need.”

Slippery Rock University has also maintained their need-blind policy and does not discriminate against students with lower income levels. Patty Hladio, SRU’s director of financial aid, said Slippery Rock is and always will be need-blind, and that the University’s relationship with community colleges in the area allows for financial stability for both the institution and its students.

“Because our mission is access, we do want to make sure we are available to the public,” Hladio said. “We are very fortunate because in addition to being a public institution, we are strategically located in a reasonable vicinity of four solid community college systems. From a financial perspective, because of our agreements and where we’re located, we’re fortunate that we have policies for students that can minimize debts.”

Cukanna said that an institution’s financial aid policies differ everywhere, but stressed Duquesne’s commitment to providing an excellent and affordable education to students who qualify academically.

“Each institution is different,” he said. “Each school has to respond to the demands of the marketplace differently. Access and choice in higher education are critical to us [at Duquesne]. It’s part of our culture and the fabric of our university.”

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