The Spectacle Blog

Middlebury and Financial Aid

By on 2.4.09 | 6:01PM

The all-knowing Scott Jaschik at InsideHigherEd notes that Middlebury is one of a few colleges to consider taking "drastic measures" in dealing with a budget shortfall:

When Middlebury College announced its plans to deal with a budget shortfall last week, however, it announced that financial aid was on the table; that a little more would be asked of students on financial aid and their parents; and that aid for international students would be scaled back a bit. Middlebury remains need-blind and pledged to meeting the full need of admitted applicants, but it may be unique among the competitive private colleges and universities that have faced large losses of endowment income in that it is publicly including financial aid among the areas in which downward adjustments are being made.

Thus we have evidence of one of the strangest things about American culture: Even in hard economic times, the market demands you go to a big named school, rather than attend a community college for a few years and transfer (if you really feel the need to transfer). The implicit assertion is that being needs-blind is important, but also giving students the support they need to attend a particular college is sort of a moral duty. But why? To fund a "first year experience"?

So what else is being done?

Salaries are being frozen — with modest increases for those on the low end of the salary scale and cuts for the president and vice presidents. Positions are being eliminated. Programs, too. But mixed in among the lists of cuts are changes in financial aid policies.

I'll be writing more on this in the coming weeks, but the idea of "positions being eliminated" is yet another problem with administration efforts. Every year, the number of administrators at colleges go up, while the number of tenured faculty goes down. Fortunately, Middlebury is one of the few schools where this is not the case -- faculty numbers have increased, at a rate much higher than staff has been hired. The question is whether that will remain the case. Other schools have had the opposite effect -- like the University of Massachusetts, where the ratio of administrators to tenure-seeking faculty is 5 to 1.

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