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August 6, 2001

New guidelines set for need-based aid

By Eric Rangus


An agreement signed in early July will put Emory and 27 of the nation’s other top universities on the same page in calculating need-based financial aid.

However, this doesn’t mean that more financial aid money will be available. Instead, it simply clarifies the way in which aid is distributed.

“It’s geared toward the [participating] schools adopting consistent document requests, consistent deadlines for submitting those documents and consistent need-analysis policies, so that a student who applies to Duke, Emory or Cornell should expect to receive the same type and amount of aid,” Julia Perreault, director of financial aid.

“It’s hard to predict [the net result in dollars], because what may be applicable to one student may not be to another,” she said. “It’s trying to be more consistent and realistic about a family’s ability to pay. The principles are that families should continue to pay to the extent that they are able, but it’s trying to get a clearer picture based on a family’s unique situation.”

Perreault said the new guidelines have been in the works since 1999 and came about because students often would receive different amounts of financial aid from the different schools to which they would apply, the reason being that the universities often had widely ranging procedures to determine parental assets. The new guidelines are an attempt to standardize the process.

They touch on issues such as cost of living, retirement and college funds, private-school tuition and divorced families (click here).

The new guidelines are hardly foreign at Emory. The University currently takes into account situations such as primary and secondary private-school tuition for other children and retirement funds, but does not apply them on all occasions. That will change when the new procedures are fully implemented.

Currently, about 42 percent of Emory’s undergraduates receive some type of need-based aid. The average grant is $14,000, and around $21 million is available.

Need-based aid differs from merit-based aid (such as a departmental academic scholarship or a HOPE scholarship) in that need-based aid is concerned strictly with a family’s ability to pay for college, regardless of grades. The new guidelines mandate that money for need-based aid be separated from merit aid and that students be told what form their aid is taking.

Perhaps the only cause for concern about the new system, according to Perreault, is that the new guidelines are exactly that—guidelines.

“We can say we adopt all these principles, but if someone doesn’t want to do it within this group of 28 schools, nobody’s going to be watching over their shoulder,” Perreault said. “It’s going to be an honor code. How do we ensure compliance?”

In answering that question Perrault said schools will periodically submit a small group of unidentified students as test cases to ensure all participants offer the same amount of aid.

While Emory could theoretically institute the new procedures immediately, they most likely will not take effect until the 2003–04 academic year, because extra time is necessary to develop software to conduct the new need analyses.


Back to Emory Report August 6, 2001