At first glance, Northwestern’s new financial aid policy seems to be a brilliant step toward helping more students pay for college. But upon closer inspection, significant flaws appear in the plan.
For students with the greatest need, NU will eliminate all federal loans and replace them with grants. Federal loans for all NU students will be capped at $20,000 over four years, and any amount above that will be turned into grants.
A positive benefit of the new policy is that it applies retroactively, so currently enrolled and eligible students will receive the benefits of the plan next year.
However, NU students in need receive an average of $18,000 – less than the new cap. For most students, the new policy will make no difference to their financial contribution. Additionally, the cap does not deal with private loan amounts at all, so students with non-federal loans will continue to pay the same dollar amount.
Students most affected by the new policy, those whose parents have an average income of around $55,000 per year, will have their loans eliminated entirely, but the university only budgeted $3 million dollars annually for the new aid. This seems to reflect minimal commitment on the university’s part to helping the maximum number of students.
Although this helps NU’s lowest income bracket, it is another example of the university’s continual neglect of NU’s middle-class students.
Trying to compete equally with Harvard University’s plan to make families earning up to $180,000 pay no more than 10 percent of their income is a stretch. But NU no longer seems to want to compete with the Ivies at all. Other top schools that resemble NU, including Yale University and Dartmouth College, have also implemented measures similar to Harvard’s type of aid.
While competition is fierce and application numbers are continually going up, NU is not trying hard enough to increase not only competitiveness, but also diversity.
What’s The Rock
This week Northwestern caved in to the demands of ASG clerk James D’Angelo to allow political rallies at the rock. Students for Ron Paul, a non-ASG funded group, has scheduled a political event for Feb. 5.
While D’Angelo states that the senate made its decision in part because “the policy was pretty poorly written,” the actual policy concerning the Use of University Facilities for Political Activities has not been changed. The new ruling merely redefines the status of the Rock as a university resource.
However, this new decision is unclear in its application. What constitutes The Rock? Is the cobbled area in front of the physical rock included in this ruling? Or can rallies only be held in the immediate walled enclosure? Must members of non-ASG funded groups constantly touch painted surfaces while fundraising for their candidates?
This “change” seems more a measure to quiet politically rambunctious students such as D’Angelo than a definite action by the senate. By redefining the location instead of the policy, NU is avoiding the real issue of whether the university and its students would benefit from changing the official policy.
As a tax-exempt organization, NU is legally prohibited from “participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Yet, is the use of university buildings by student groups, whether funded by ASG or not, truly violating this policy?
As political fever rises in anticipation of the November elections (not to mention Tuesday’s primaries), this issue will almost certainly remain in the campus spotlight. Eventually the university administration will need to address the subject head-on and decide the future of this policy.