Reconsidering Financial Aid

Reconsidering Financial Aid: Detrimental Effects of our current Financial Aid System The purpose of this paper is to summarize how Swarthmore's current financial aid policies have affected students' ability to continue an affordable education at the College. Transparency --Currently, students and families are not offered an explanation for how their financial aid awards were calculated; --Consequently, families who cannot meet their expected contributions are powerless to appeal to the financial aid office (FAO). Appeals process --In fact, a formal appeals process is not offered to families who cannot meet their expected contributions; --This fact is confirmed by the director of financial aid, who stated: "Once the financial aid package is issued, the FAO is in no way obligated to reconsider that package." Timeline --Even when families submit the necessary paperwork by late April, families may not receive their financial aid package until as late as mid-late July; --This policy differs from other schools such as Yale University, who facilitates discussions concerning financial aid as early as May and who officially issues the financial aid packages in June; --This forces families into an unfair position: either a family pays more than it had expected to contribute, or the Swarthmore student is unable to continue her/his education; --Even in instances where students choose not to matriculate the following semester, their options are severely limited. By the time the family resolves to withdraw the student from Swarthmore, students may not even be eligible to enroll in community colleges. Scholarships --Currently, students dependent on financial aid do not benefit from receiving scholarships. Once students dependent on financial aid reach their expected student contribution (capped at $3,650), every dollar of outside aid is reduced from the aid they receive from Swarthmore; --This system is inherently unjust, only benefiting those who pay the cost of a Swarthmore education without receiving aid; --This system is not universal. Institutions such as Yale and Princeton allow students to use outside scholarships to pay off their contribution, not capped at $3,650. The Financial Aid Taboo --Within the school setting, because students are uncertain of how their financial aid packages are calculated, many express discomfort in discussing financial aid for fear that their financial aid will decrease. In conclusion, in order to 1) clarify concerns about FAO's financial aid policies and procedures, 2) create an open dialogue between the administration and the students, 3) facilitate aid such that families can continue to support a Swarthmore student's education, revisions of the financial aid system are necessary. Upon signing the document, please indicate in the comment section whether you are a student (on aid, activist,leader or however you identify), family member, faculty member, ally, etc.


This document is sponsored by Swarthmore Financial Justice, a collective of individuals (students, faculty) at Swarthmore College.


For more information regarding other institution's financial aid policies, visit,


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