Matters of Principle

March 31, 2002

The following financial-aid principles, meant to standardize the financial-aid process, were endorsed by the twenty-eight university presidents who signed off on the proposed revisions to the administration of need-based financial aid:

  • Families should contribute to educational expenses according to their ability, and those with similar financial profiles should contribute similar amounts.
  • To the extent they are able, parents and students have the primary responsibility to contribute to educational expenses before an institution awards financial aid.
  • Institutions should evaluate both income and assets as part of the assessment of the family's ability to pay.
  • The exercise of "professional judgment" by financial-aid officers in assessing a family's ability to pay should recognize unique or extenuating financial circumstances in individual cases; such judgment is not the proper mechanism for systematically treating groups of students differently to advance institutional objectives.
  • Each institution should inform applicants about the policies and practices it applies when measuring a family's ability to pay, carry out its policies consistently, and support the awarding of need-based aid.
  • An institution that allocates any financial assistance that is not based exclusively on need should inform all prospective applicants of the standards it applies in allocating that aid.

Key components of revisions to institutional methodology, which are general methods to be used to determine a family's eligibility for institutional aid above and beyond any federal aid a student might receive:

  • Common elements of need analysis and professional judgment
  • A common calendar for the collection of data from families
  • A means of training financial-aid professionals in the application of the methodology
  • An oversight group to review and modify the methodology as needed over time

The twenty-eight institutions comprising the 568 Presidents' Working Group: Amherst College, Boston College, Bowdoin College, Claremont McKenna College, Columbia University, Cornell University, Davidson College, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Haverford College, Macalester College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Middlebury College, Northwestern University, Pomona College, Rice University, Stanford University, Swarthmore College, University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, Williams College, and Yale University.

--2001 Report of the Common Standards Subcommittee to the 568 Presidents' Working Group