Financial Aid Reform King Declares Victory

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CCSC President Seth Flaxman C’07 said when he got the “heads-up” on Monday from CU’s financial aid Powers that Be about the new financial aid policy, he joked with Dean Colombo: “This is the quickest editorial turn-around ever!” (The editorial he co-wrote with Presidents emeritus
money demanding financial aid reform came out in Spec just this past Friday).

While Seth admits the new initiative came right from the top, he says FAiR’s big push last year for financial aid reform made a difference. “I do believe [the administration] wanted to do the right thing,” he says, “Students needed to push them on a faster time table, which is what happened last year.”

So Open Columbia kept its biggest promise — no matter how much Clinton-esque luck came in handy for them. Now what?

“After we make sure this is the policy that we want, I would totally go to bat with the administration to help fund it [by appealing to alumni],” Flaxman says.

Meanwhile, Harvard’s endowment came out. It’s nearly $30 billion. Up from $18 billion in 2003 when Open Columbia were entering first-years — compare that to Columbia’s estimated endowment, $6 billion, and $4.5 billion in 2003.

How do you feel about that financial aid reform now?

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  1. we are  

    poor(er). it's sort of a cyclical problem. alumni won't fund columbia because it's not a friendly or socially responsible place; columbia does not have the money to do anything. bah.

  2. Anonymous  

    it's why we have to spend our time improving columbia now. if we make it so that columbia is a great place to go to school, alumni will donate and it will become better. gotta start from the ground up.

  3. Honest Abe

    Didn't Tao graduate?

    Some people don't know when to move on...

  4. nope  

    he didn't. tao just says he will every semester.

  5. i've gotta admit  

    I really don't see myself donating much money to Columbia. Ever.

    What's the source on Columbia's Endowment? Last I remember it was 5.1ish.

    • Anonymous  

      It was around fair value 5.2ish as of the close of FY 2005. We've had historical performance of about 17% compound annual growth rate historically. Ergo, I made an educated guess and guessed it was possibly around $6bn now. CU's fiscal year ends in mid-summer, and it usually is the last among the Ivies to report the #'s. I remember in 2004, they didn't report #'s until mid-Dec (I think, but am not sure, that the end of the calendar year is the legal deadline for reporting #'s).

  6. wtf  

    what does tao have to do with this? leave the guy alone and move on. its childish.

  7. GSers  

    Once again GS is left out and treated unequally though the Columbia administration perpetuates the image of equality and parity.

    • Anonymous  

      I am not against giving full-need-met financial aid to GS students. It makes for an interesting thought experiment. GS currently enrolls about 200-300 students per class (not counting postbacc premeds) on an admission rate of 50% per class. If GS were to go to an all-need-met model, what would application, matriculation, and age numbers look like?

  8. umm  

    read the email from peter awn that went out to gs students- concomitant to this was the largest aid hike for GS ever.

  9. How much difference

    Will this really make? Who here has a family that makes ~40K a year, how much aid is this really?

  10. But the difference

    is that GS aid is merit-based, not need-based. At CC you can pretty much be as shitty a student as you want [within reason] and if your parents aren't well-off, you've got no funding issue. However, should you be in GS and working 50 hours or so a week and not making anything, if you have a bad semester, you're fucked.

    • Differance

      I'm asking a CC student, I'm wondering how much money in loans this aid is really replacing? How much is covered by grants as opposed to loans? I'm a senior in GS and I get a little over 10K a semester in grants and 7K in loans?

      • #13

        I dunno. I know when I was in CC I got about 5K/semester in grants and now that I just enrolled in GS I'm not getting shit.

        • Try not filing

          The merit aid goes up every year, I think it usually starts around 2400 for the first year, and goes up from there.

          I wouldn't recommend this but if you're really hurting you could try not filing a 1040 this year and filling in a non-filer form with CU saying you made zero income. Make sure you are an independent too. That might help.

          14% seems high, I'll bet a lot of those are people's parents who are discounting mortgage interest payments, capital loss on stocks etc.

          • you're assuming  

            that our parents have stocks. some of ours don't... i still remember when a parent visited my magnet program and insisted my parents probably had stock when I was the only one to say my parents didnt.

  11. Lots of aid actually

    According to the New York Times, 14% of last year's class came from families earning less than 45k. If you extrapolate, that means almost 800 students.

  12. I'm not assuming

    that yours specifically do, I'm only suggesting that the fourteen percent figure seems high. By implication (if that's the right term) I'm insinuating that the above figure comes directly from people's FAFSA forms and isn't reflection of gross income, but net income, taking into account deductions like mortgage payments, capital depreciation etc

  13. Open Columbia

    What's Open Columbia?

  14. You also

    have to look at how many parents and/or which parent the student put down if the parent's are divorced or separated. In a one parent household, especially if you use the figures of the parent that earns less, under $50K isn't all that hard.

    • Anonymous

      why are you looking for a million and a half reasons to assume that there are no poor people on Columbia's campus. There were plenty of poorer folks at Columbia, not dirt poor by any means, but certainly with family incomes at or around 40-50k.

      Do you think work study jobs are only done by bored students that like swiping ID cards for $10 an hour?

      I know I was part of the over-privelege full tuition paying crowd and working work study never crossed my mind.

      • I'm not

        I fall in the category of students that you think I'm trying to deny [even more so since I had to leave Columbia for a few years just to be able to afford to come back]. I'm just pointing out that there are ways around the FAFSA.

  15. The argument

    many people make against this kind of aid is that rather than helping middle class families who don't benefit from much from FAFSA or from federal subsidies like housing assistance or welfare, it merely gives slightly more aid to the poorest people and takes pressure off of universities for charging (often already deeply debt-ridden) extortionate rates of tuition. Not saying I agree or disagree, just want to see what you guys think

  16. #26

    left out "everybody else (who are" between charging and (often

  17. i tend to think  

    that most people underexaggerate their social status. people always say they are middle class even when they are clearly very far from the middle

    • well  

      the definition of 'upper middle class' is expansive. there are many middle class lifestyles one can live. I tend to think that lower class are the folks too poor to carry debt, and the upper class are those too rich to ever need to carry debt.

      I'm the first to admit that I've lived a very comfortable unadverse sheltered middle class life- on a 5 figure combined income for a family of 4. living frugally can do that for you. we also got slammed by the FinAid folks who initially seemed to think we had millions stashed away offshore with no evidence to substantiate the claim. at least that's how they explained my lack of a fin aid offer.

  18. GS Student

    Tao's admit figures are off for GS. I believe it to be around 30% now, with an unimpressive retention rate. Take that for what it's worth.

    Based on Awn's email (which can also be read at ), I'm still not entirely sure what this means - if anything - for GS. While it looks like GS is getting the short end of the deal yet again, if Awn's figures are correct (in the 12% and 14% increases), it seems entirely possible that some students in GS already and will continue to receive more grant aid from the institution than those students in CC/SEAS that share a similar financial background. If a student in GS performs exceptionally well in the classroom, it seems like that he/she may easily receive more than a student in CC/SEAS from a middle class family. At the same time, as someone else indicated, if the GS student has a lousy semester, his/her aid decreases dramatically, where merit plays absolutely no role in the need-based aid granted to CC/SEAS students. Further, so many GS students tend to be paying entirely out of pocket without the help of mom and dad. Either way, need should be at least partially taken into account when it comes to GS grants.

    Since Spec indicated that this would only impact something between 11% and 14% of current undergraduates, I wonder how much of a different this will really make. I would imagine that students in CC/SEAS with parents earning less than $50,000 are already well compensated in need-based aid, though I could be wrong.

    In fact, as someone earlier asked, to those in CC/SEAS, what are you currently receiving in grant money from the university?

  19. Shadow Spoiler

    I think he's our shadow prez. But the GS stats are skewed b/c GS includes 100% admit pools like Columbia employees. B/c financial aid is a factor with GS admits, anyone asking for it is facing long odds for getting in, albeit not as long as you would with CC. But it's a self selecting group so it's impossible to compare

  20. sorry to disappoint!

    I'm comment #29, and I'm certainly not the GSSC president (nor am I some "shadow president" either). In fact, I can't stand GSSC. Just last week, they took a trip (err, "retreat") to the Hamptons using our recently increased student life fee.

  21. hmmm  

    why do people flame tao but not deth?

  22. GS pauper

    You see I filed as an Independent for 9000 dollars last year and receive about 8.5K a semester in grants. I'll be graduating with about 35K in debt, a lot, but the difference in response from employers I get from having Columbia on my resume is like night and day, well worth it in my opinion.

  23. Kelly Miller

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  24. GSSC Member  

    #34 - Get your facts straight. Though the GSSC did take a trip to Sag Harbor, not quite the Hamptons, it was not the picturesque vacation that you would make it out to be, a large number of the council members didn't wish to go, we all had other things that we would've preferred doing, such as catching up on all the work that we had missed doing other council and policy related work prior to the team building retreat. This trip to the "hamptons" came in at a significantly lower figure than previous years trips, which were usually to some summer camp/trust building seminar. What most of the students don't understand is the importance of the retreat. Having been through it, I have to say it was a truly grueling but rewarding experience. Having to work with 27 members to accomplish anything within the framework of this university is not an easy feat. The entire retreat was spent discussing policy, getting to know each other, find out each others strengths and weaknesses and creating a solid game plan for this semester. Why would I want to spend the second weekend into campus away from school, when I've just got my classes in order and have shitload of work to do? Understand this, this council is deadset on making things happen for the GS community and puts in endless hours. If you have friends on council this semester, compare the number of hours that you saw them last semester to the number of hours that you've seen them this semester. It is a full-time job, one that most students will never appreciate.

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