Misconceptions of financial aid

by Mara Stewart | 5/3/17 2:20am

Dartmouth’s tuition costs over $250,000 including room and board, making it the 14th most expensive college in the United States. The cost of Dartmouth can deter people from attending or even applying in the first place. Although the tuition of Dartmouth can be a deterrent for families that have a child applying, students at Dartmouth don’t typically speak of financial aid openly. Many students don’t reveal their financial aid status, as some perceive the majority of students here to be incredibly wealthy. There is a widespread belief that most Dartmouth students went to elite private schools, have parents who own large, successful companies and do not receive financial aid. However, in reality, roughly 50 percent of Dartmouth students are on financial aid and the majority of students attended public high school.

I spoke to a random sample of students about the perceptions of financial aid at the College. Most who were interviewed falsely believed that over 70 percent of Dartmouth students don’t receive financial aid, while in reality that statistic is around fifty percent. Perhaps this is because many students who receive financial aid don’t readily discuss it.

Additionally, multiple students on financial aid believed they were at a disadvantage entering Dartmouth as the majority of students attended private high schools and had connections through their families. However, in reality, for the Class of 2021, 60 percent of the accepted students attended a public high school.

Not only do many students underestimate the percentage of the Dartmouth population receiving financial aid, but they also underestimate the amount of financial aid received by students. The majority of the interviewed students believed that students on financial aid received less than $20,000 per year. However, the average need-based grant for the Class of 2020 was $46,237 per person. In fact, $95 million in Dartmouth scholarships were distributed to students in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Tadeas Uhlir ’19 said that financial services were actually quite generous in giving aid, citing the reapplication process for financial aid as very simple and one of the key factors in making Dartmouth’s financial aid very malleable and generous.

After Dartmouth eliminated need blind admissions for international students, Uhlir, an international student from the Czech Republic, believes that he would not have been admitted to Dartmouth if he applied a year late. He believes that the elimination of need blind admission for international studies makes the international community less diverse. He said most of international students are very wealthy and that the elimination of need blind admission will make this community even more exclusive.

Emily Crocetti ’19 said she believes that there is a disproportionate number of wealthy students at Dartmouth. She added that many students come from structured, two-parent homes, and thus many students don’t experience the struggles of divorced parents.

“They live in a bubble and they will never will know how the other 90 percent of the country lives,” she said.

Although many students underestimate the extent of financial aid, one must acknowledge the disproportionate number of wealthy students at Dartmouth. Many facts about the income disparity at Dartmouth astonish students: 20 percent of students have a joint household income of over $630,000 a year and the median family income of a student from Dartmouth is $200,400. Maybe after hearing statistics like this, students perpetuate their own biases by focusing on the wealthy aspects of the Dartmouth community.

One must acknowledge the multi-faceted nature of financial aid and wealth disparity at Dartmouth. Although many Dartmouth students are wealthy and the College is an expensive school, the majority of students are on financial aid, and those on financial aid typically receive over $40,000 of aid.