28 colleges alter fin. aid packages

by Shevani Jaisingh | 7/17/01 5:00am

The presidents of 28 top colleges and universities, including four of the eight Ivies, have endorsed a set of guiding principles for the fair determination of financial aid eligibility focusing on financial need rather than merit.

Notably missing from this group are Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton. Financial aid directors at Dartmouth and Harvard said they feared committing to the principles could actually lead to reductions in their financial aid offerings.

Schools that signed the principles said they did so in order to make the cost of higher education more feasible for all students, not just those an institution is recruiting. The principles came out of the work of an ad hoc assembly called the 568 Presidents' Working Group.

While these recommendations are not binding contracts but rather guidelines developed as a "consensus approach to need analysis," according to working group's report they are meant to bring clarity, simplicity and fairness to the assessment of financial aid.

Decisions against signing on to the principles at Dartmouth, Princeton and Harvard were made in the context of recent independent initiatives meant to strengthen financial aid offerings at the three schools

"We have a need analysis methodology that is perhaps more enlightened, more generous and more flexible than I think this group is working on," said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Karl Furstenberg. Both Dartmouth and Harvard have been involved in the discussions all along, however.

"We are actually doing more than this new methodology would allow. ... I think Harvard and Princeton are in the same position," Furstenberg said.

Furstenberg also noted that the new principles are still in the process of being formed. "There's still a lot of work to be done," he said.

Sally Donahue, Director of Financial Aid at Harvard College, had similar sentiments. "We are very supportive of the general principles," she said. "The reason we didn't actually sign the agreement was that it would have required us to ask families to contribute a bit more to the education of their student then we currently ask for. ... We felt at this