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Financial aid policy change will benefit more undergraduates

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John Carberry

Starting in fall 2018, new Cornell undergraduate students from middle-income families will benefit from more expansive financial aid from the university.

The administration has approved a new policy that broadens eligibility requirements for reduced loans, so more families will be awarded greater Cornell grant aid.

“This change is important for Cornell, because it enables the university to continue enrolling a socio-economically diverse undergraduate population,” said Senior Vice Provost and Graduate School Dean Barbara Knuth, chair of the committee that recommended the new policy. “The policy change addresses the issue of fairness by rebalancing family income requirements that were originally established about a decade ago.”

The policy widens the $60,000-$75,000 family income bracket for reduced loans to $60,000-$85,000. With that change, the maximum annual loan amount for those earning $75,000-$85,000 will decrease from $5,000 to $2,500, the current level for those earning $60,000-$75,000. “The rest of those families’ financial needs will be met with Cornell grant aid,” Knuth said.

Similarly, the policy shifts the $75,000-$120,000 family income bracket to $85,000-$135,000. The maximum annual loan will drop from $7,500 to $5,000 for families with an annual income of $120,000-$135,000. “Again, Cornell will meet the remainder of that need with grant aid,” Knuth said.

These changes will affect incoming freshmen and transfer students starting in fall 2018. Continuing students will receive financial aid packages according to the policies in effect when they enrolled.

For families with the most financial need, who have less than $60,000 in annual income, Cornell will continue to grant aid in lieu of any loans in their financial aid packages. And Cornell will continue its policy of no parent financial contributions to the cost of education for families with less than $60,000 in annual income and less than $100,000 in assets.

President Martha E. Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff recently approved the policy, which was recommended by the Admissions and Financial Aid Working Group, chaired by Knuth. The working group includes five undergraduate college deans, vice presidents, vice provosts, faculty, undergraduate students and staff.

Kotlikoff had tasked the group with considering the extent to which undergraduate financial aid programs fairly address need across socio-economic groups, with a particular focus on whether there should be a rebalancing of how financial aid resources are distributed across family income groups.

The group approached the task systematically and thoroughly, said working group member Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“We looked at all of our current policies, and then we talked about what would happen if we tweaked any of them,” she said. “We went through them and rejected ones that would make it more difficult for our students to afford to go to our university. That really was the approach that was taken here.”

When developing recommendations, the working group recognized that U.S. income quintiles have changed since the current Cornell financial aid policies were implemented in 2008-09, Boor said.

“As the land-grant institution for the state of New York, we have an ongoing promise to provide education across the full socio-economic spectrum of students,” she said. “The decisions that we made as a committee ensure that we keep that promise and remain true to who we are as a modern university.”

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