Cooper defends aid policy

Dec. 2, 2011, 2:35 a.m.

Stanford’s policy to waive the tuition of students whose family incomes are below $100,000 helps these students afford college; however, figures from College Board suggest it may also take money away from less-wealthy students at other universities.


A Nov. 24 article published in USA Today examined the connection between elite universities, such as Stanford, offering generous financial aid to families that make upwards of double the average income in the United States, and how this causes other universities to offer similar packages to remain competitive.


However at other universities, increasing aid to these families can mean cutting aid to those who are more in need.


“That’s certainly possible that other institutions would feel pressured,” said Karen Cooper, director of Financial Aid at Stanford. “They’re competing on a lot of levels. That’s one piece of everything that there is to compete about.”


Stanford’s Financial Aid Office says that its first responsibility is to provide for its students’ families.


“Students who are admitted should be able to attend without bankrupting our families,” Cooper said. “At an institution with a healthy endowment, I feel like we have a responsibility to ensure that our families of the students are able to attend Stanford.”


In the 2010-2011 academic year, Stanford charged $40,050 for tuition, $957 in required fees and $12,291 for room and board. The Financial Aid Office guarantees to waive the full price tag for students from families with an annual income of under $60,000, and it guarantees to waive the price of tuition for students from families with an annual income of under $100,000.


There is no cutoff for how much financial aid the University gives to its undergraduates. Aid for students from families with incomes of $100,000 and over is calculated on a case-by-case basis.


“A family that makes $150,000 but has $1 million in assets and one kid in a family wouldn’t qualify for aid at all,” Cooper said. “A family that has $200,000 that has six kids where two are in college and two will be in college in the next couple years would probably qualify for at least some help.”


If there is any competition over admitted undergraduates, according to the Financial Aid Office, it is over low-income students. Much of this competition is between Stanford and other elite universities such as Harvard and Yale.


In 2008 the Financial Aid Office developed its current formula for distributing aid in order to attract more students from low-income families to apply for undergraduate admission to Stanford.


A little more than half of students apply for financial aid at Stanford. While around 30 percent of undergraduates come from families that makes less than $100,000 a year, they receive 70 percent of all aid dispersed.


“I can say wholeheartedly that Stanford’s need-based financial aid has changed my life,” said Brittany Rose Foerster ‘12. “It is the reason why I am here…among other extenuating reasons and circumstances.”


“The amount of aid offered to me made coming to Stanford the cheapest option out of all the rest of the schools that I applied to–and they were all in-state,” Foerster said.


“Our first priority is to help our lowest income families,” Cooper said. “We want to make sure that everyone is admitted has enough money to attend.”

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