House reviews financial aid



Seeking to transform a system they say is inequitable, several Republican congressmen are advocating changes to federal financial aid programs that could limit the funding Yale receives.

With the support of the Bush administration, legislators are seeking to modify formulas instituted in the 1970s that determine how much money the federal government gives schools for aid programs for needy students. During the current academic year, Yale is projected to receive about $4.3 million in federal funds to operate these programs, which supplement the more substantial aid given directly to students by the government.

The programs at stake — which provide money for low-interest Perkins loans, work-study arrangements and supplemental grants — represent only about 10 percent of the total Yale scholarship budget. But since the 1970s, Department of Education funding for such “campus-based aid” has been determined partly through guaranteed minimum grants to specific universities, which critics say have disproportionately benefited older and more politically powerful universities.

In New England, however, many congressmen and senators have opposed a change in funding formulas that they say will adversely affect colleges and universities in the Northeast.

“The goal of financial aid programs is to ensure that a student’s opportunity to attend college is based on performance, not hampered by economic conditions,” Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat, said through a spokesman. “We must do everything we can to achieve that goal for all students in America without undermining institutions of higher education in Connecticut.”

While two Republican leaders on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio and Rep. Howard McKeon of California, have expressed support for changing the formulas, it is unclear exactly how much Yale would lose if their efforts succeed. Proponents of a change in the formula are calling for a shift in funding towards schools that have traditionally received less campus-based aid — including universities in the South and West, community colleges and for-profit universities.

Although all of the Ivy League schools are comparatively well-funded under existing campus-based aid formulas, other New England universities — from Northeastern to Quinnipiac — also receive significant funding. During the current academic year, Harvard University is scheduled to receive $6.1 million in campus-based aid, while Columbia is expected to get $8.1 million.

Elsewhere in the country, however, colleges and universities that have rapidly grown in recent years receive considerably less per student from the federal government. Baylor University, for example, located in Waco, Tex. has over twice as many undergraduates at Yale, but gets about half as much in federal campus-based aid. According to an analysis by The New York Times, Ivy League universities received at least five times more than the median amount per financial aid applicant to run low-interest loan programs or pay students in work-study jobs.

Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said the higher level of aid provided to schools like Yale, Harvard and Princeton could partly be a reflection of the higher costs of education at those schools.

Larry Zaglaniczny, director of congressional relations for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said financial aid is distributed inequitably because Congress has been unwilling to mandate any changes to the program.

“One of the fiercest battles the Congress has is any time they change a formula,” said Zaglaniczny, whose group is lobbying for the changes. “As a consequence, there just hasn’t been the political will to do it. What’s changed this time is that the Bush administration has proposed changing the formula, too.”

House Republicans are expected to introduce the changes later this spring, as Congress prepares to renew the Higher Education Act, a process that typically occurs every five or six years.

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