Financial Aid Remains Top Priority

Photograph: Columbia College Dean Austin Quigley talks with Syreeta McFadden CC'97 and Jodi Kantor CC'96 after a forum last Wednesday on financial aid. Photo Credit: Amy Callahan.

Worried inquiries were met with straightforward answers when more than 75 students crowded into Wallach Lounge Jan. 31 for a discussion on financial aid policy with President Rupp, College Dean Austin Quigley and other administrators.

The "Financial Aid Forum" was at the request of students concerned that Columbia's traditional need-blind admission policy and other financial aid measures for students were threatened.

Rupp pledged, "Financial aid is a very high priority."

Over the last several weeks, Rupp has reasserted Columbia's strong and lasting commitment to need-blind admissions.

And that is what the students wanted to know. Nomi Victor CC'97, put it this way: "Students need a lot of reassurance. If students need to hear, 'We are committed to financial aid' every half hour, then they need to hear that."

So the students were obliged by Rupp and Quigley, along with David Charlow, director of undergraduate financial aid; Chris Colombo, dean of students of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Mark Burstein, vice president for student services, and Alan J. Stone, vice president for public affairs.

The discussion on financial aid ranged across the board, from very specific questions on federal formulas, to general concern about how students can be more involved.

Antonio Garcia CC'99, complained that the more money he saved over the summer, the less aid he would receive. Garcia said he hoped to earn $4,000 from a summer job, but wondered whether it was worth it: "They're going to take it away anyway. There's no incentive to earn it."

But Charlow told Garcia that financial aid guidelines required him to earn no more than $1,800--and any income beyond that was his to keep.

At that, Rupp encouraged Garcia: "So go out there and earn that $4,000."

"And give it to your parents!" Quigley added with a laugh.

The administrators spent much of the evening dispelling rumors and correcting false information about changes in financial aid and admissions policies.

One student said he was concerned about discussions on increasing the enrollment of the College: "The College feels crowded now."

But Rupp said: "That's a perception that doesn't have a counterpart in reality." He said there are only five more College students in this year's incoming class than in last year's.

James Billings, CC'98, asked what the students could do to help secure the future of need-blind admissions.

Rupp told the students that one important way to increase financial aid is through alumni gifts to the College.

"It's in all of our interest," he said, "that prospective donors feel good about Columbia College. Without exception, the parents whom I speak to around the country say how pleased they are with the wonderful experience their sons and daughters are having."

Rupp encouraged students to help spread the word about the vibrant intellectual forum that exists here.

Quigley described the College student body as: "A joy to work with, enormously smart, and suitably skeptical."

"You should be and are appropriately skeptical," he said. "That seems to be a very appropriate role for you to play. I think we both played that role when we were very, very young."

Quigley looked to Rupp, who smiled and admitted, "And not so young."

The forum was organized and moderated by Jodi Kantor, CC'96, who represents the student body on the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid.

"A lot of the questions were right on," she said after the event. "This is the kind of discussion that should continue."

Kantor explained, "If one were to make a list of the concerns of Columbia College students, this issue would rank near the top. It's the litmus test of who we are. We are who our students are. And who our students are is determined by our admissions policies."

Columbia University Record -- February 9, 1996 -- Vol. 21, No. 16