Cornell University and Dartmouth College are announcing changes in their financial aid policies according to an article in Inside Higher Education. Basically, the new policy is that each of these colleges will match the financial aid award offered by some of their competitor colleges including the other colleges of the Ivy League.
Here is how it would work. If a student applies to both Cornell and Harvard and gets a financial aid award from Harvard that is better than the one from Cornell, Cornell will match the award at Harvard. Sounds good since the student can now make a college selection without the issue of which college has the better financial aid package.
But, things aren’t quite that simple. The student needs to know about this policy and ask Cornell or Dartmouth to match the financial aid award from the competing college. Don’t ask, don’t get more money. The reality also is that a student admitted to both Cornell and Harvard will in all likelihood choose Harvard if the cost is the same at both.
So why are Cornell and Dartmouth changing their policies? The real focus of this new policy is recruited athletes. Recruited athletes will often choose a college based on that particular athletic program or the coach at that college. If a recruited athlete prefers Cornell’s athletic program to Harvard’s they now can get more money to play for Cornell.
This has the consequence that two students applying to Cornell, one who also applied to Harvard and is a recruited athlete, may get a better financial aid package to Cornell than the non athlete. Doesn’t quite seem fair given that the Ivy League rules specifically forbid the granting of merit based scholarships including athletic scholarships.
This also has the additional consequence of potentially increasing even further the applications to the Ivy League colleges with stronger aid (Harvard, Yale and Princeton) since you need to have a financial aid award from one of the those colleges to show to Cornell or Dartmouth.
The only good news from this deceptive practice is that Cornell is being open about what they are doing. As long as you are an avid follower of Ivy League admissions, you as a recruited athlete can get a good deal. Just remember to apply to Harvard or Yale as well.