Sunday, December 30, 2007

Samwick Discusses Financial Aid

Professor Andrew Samwick, the director of the Rockefeller Center, has an interesting discussion about the potential effects of Harvard's financial aid changes on his Vox Baby blog.

Friday, December 28, 2007

"A New Paradigm"

In an article in tomorrow's New York Times about the ramifications of Harvard's decision to expand its financial aid for middle class students, New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle says that, "They [Harvard] created a new paradigm. People will pay attention to it."

LaValle is right. Harvard's move should, and already has, changed the conversation about financial aid at Dartmouth. As the article discusses, many colleges are concerned that Harvard's decision will force them, because of limited resources, to focus on middle class students at the expense of lower income students. After all, most colleges have far smaller endowments than Harvard does. Dartmouth's endowment per student is 42% as large as Harvard's, certainly a limitation on the flexibility and potential growth of our financial aid offerings.

But the real question at hand is our priorities. Compared with the construction of new buildings and increases in administration and faculty size, how much emphasis is Dartmouth placing on prioritizing financial aid? A key word that gets used around Parkhurst is "competitiveness" - that when considering financial decisions, the ultimate goal should be maintaining and improving our standing relative to our peers. It seems to me that this has been the impetus for the construction of the new dorms and academic buildings. And they are nice - I live in one of them. But if we don't keep Dartmouth affordable, none of that is going to matter. If prospective students simply cannot afford to attend, or if they have a better offer from one of our peers, the nicest buildings aren't going to get them to attend. I certainly think that financial aid is definitely a top priority for the college - we are definitely in a small group when it comes to our need-blind admission policy - but I wonder if it is as much of a priority as it can be, as it should be. Financial aid shouldn't be the top priority only because it is the right thing to do, or because it is what students, families, and alumni want, it is also where the battle for "competitiveness" has gone.

Mental Health at Cornell

Today's Wall Street Journal has a front page article about Cornell's efforts to improve the way they handle mental health problems among their students. Timothy Marchell, Cornell's associate director of health services and director of mental-health initiatives, has been looking for innovative approaches, such as enlisting dorm custodians to report warning signs, having no-appointment consulting hours by therapists, and putting together an "alert team" of administrators, counselors, and police that meets weekly to discuss students' problems. In doing so, Cornell has been moving into territory that many other colleges avoid for privacy concerns. For example, Cornell has been informing parents about concerns, utilizing a financial dependency exemption to student-privacy laws.

While I think that Cornell may be overstepping student privacy in an undesirable manner, I think that the article does a great job of raising the importance of mental health on college campuses - something that is certainly an issue here at Dartmouth. There has been a lot of concern among students recently about the availability of mental health counseling and resources. From what I hear, students are often given appointments weeks away, when they need assistance sooner. In the Student Assembly, last year's Student Life committee set improving mental health services as their top priority, and despite devoting considerable time and energy, made little progress. This year's Assembly has been continuing that work behind the scenes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wikipedia Celebrates Dartmouth

The anniversary of Dartmouth's founding is being featured today on the front page of Wikipedia as part of their "On This Day..." section. Thanks to Kevin for the tip.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cue the Imperial March

In the new issue of The Dartmouth Review, Jeffrey Hart discusses the entanglements between Freedman and the Review. I wasn't around, I don't know what really happened, so I can't judge. But it seems to me that any Dartmouth president who covets the Harvard job must be doing something wrong.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Zywicki Responds

Joe Malchow at Dartlog received a statement from Todd Zywicki regarding his controversial speech at the Pope Center for High Education. It's an interesting read.