Many things concern me. Many of these same things concerned me 22 years ago when I first became a college president. But among the things that concern me most, now, is the slippage we are seeing in making need the principal basis for awarding financial aid. To distinguish between “merit” (which means non-need) and “need-based” (for those who are also meritorious) aid is to play a word game that is clever but also subversive.
As institutions spend more of their finite financial aid resources on non-need financial aid, they create an “arms race” that no one can win, that drives up costs, and that allocates those precious resources in a way neither efficient nor just. Studies clearly show that merit aid and socio-economic diversity are inversely proportional. We are all at least somewhat to blame. Though prohibited by law from discussing among ourselves the problem we all know exists, is it not possible for us individually to muster the moral fortitude to stop this runaway train? If we can, and if we do, we will remind our public of what liberal arts colleges have always done best, and that is teaching, and leading, by example.
John McCardell, President, The University of the South-Sewanee