A recent article from the Syracuse Post-Standard chronicles some of the misgivings newly admitted college students have about attending high-cost, private colleges. One student in the article puts the problem rather succinctly:
“It just wasn’t enough,” said Polsin, who picked the State University College at Buffalo. “I can’t afford to pay $200,000 in loans when I graduate.”
The current trend is towards state universities and 2 year stops at community colleges as a means of lightening the financial load. These decisions are deserving of some sympathy; a large portion of what Cornell calls “aid” is actually one or two very large student loans with somewhat generous rates of interests, not grants.
The “University Industrial Complex,” as a whitty friend of mine hath named it, seems to be taking a hit: New York State colleges hit a record in the number of applicants this year, forcing private schools to produce more scholarships and other forms of aid that do not require repayment.
So, how does Cornell fit in to this trend? Penn saw a 17% rise in its total number of applicants, but only a 5% rise in the number of Early Decision (that’s the binding one) applicants, meaning a greater number of people would prefer the [slightly] lower odds of admission in exchange for the chance of a better financial aid package else where. Cornell, a school which most Ivy League applicants probably consider, is giving out more financial aid these days:
At $9,775 in 2009-10, the average cost of attendance (net of financial aid) is the lowest in 10 years for families who earn less than $75,000 a year. The number of students who received $40,000 or more in grants almost doubled from 2008 to 2009. And 13 percent more undergraduates receive need-based aid, compared with 2008.
Cornell has managed to lower the cost of attendance significantly in light of the recession. The Chronicle article I quoted above cites 36,000 applicants this past season, an unspectacular 5% increase, but since Cornell is probably already popular among applicants to other Ivy League schools, this means the school is branching out. The lower cost of attending one of the landgrant schools at Cornell (such as the Ag school, where one someone interested in biology or chemsitry can find a cheaper education in that field than at the Arts school) is probably one of the culprits. Cornell is uniquely suited to draw appeal during the recession, particularly to New Yorkers such as the ones mentioned in the Post-Standard piece, because it can offer prestigious education on the cheap. No wonder Skorton endorses Obama’s policy proposals; they virtually assure a horrible economic environment, giving Cornell a competitive advantage in attracting students.
((That was sarcastic, well… sorta))