Financial aid applicants barely increasing
Any person on the street can tell you how enormous the costs
of a private college education are these days. With the economy in a slump
and the stock market making only minimal gains on last year's selloffs,
the question can't help but be begged: are Bowdoin parents feeling the
According to Directory of Student Aid Stephen Joyce, financial
difficulty is not increasing among Bowdoin parents at markedly higher
rates than last year. Aid numbers at the College are, for the most part,
comparable to last year's.
"The economy certainly has affected families; we're
not insulated from that," he said. "There has been some shift
toward more need and more requests for aid, but it hasn't been huge yet,"
According to Joyce, applications for financial aid, while
not finalized for the 2002-2003 academic year until the spring, probably
won't be much different from last year. However, some parents may have
"When students are turning in their renewal apps for
next year, it will be very interesting to see whether the assets side
has changed a lot and how family expectations has changed because the
market is down," he said.
One area that has seen a moderate increase is mid-year reviews.
Financial aid awards are designed for the full academic year, when something
happens to a family's situation during the term, the office will go back
and reevaluate the circumstances. "We have had slightly more families
apply for a mid-year review this year," Joyce said.
On a national level, the negative effects of economic downturn
have led increased numbers of parents to approach schools with news of
layoffs and inability to make payments. Joyce said that the College has
experienced some such problems, but hasn't seen a distinct trend.
"[Sometimes] a parent has been laid off, or gone from
full-time to part-time," he said. "Those folks tend to come
to us pretty soon because they've got a real cash flow issue and need
help with that."
Usage of payment assistance agencies like the Academic Management
Service has increased nationally, in spurts upward of 25 percent in single
"We have a lot of parents who use those anyway,"
Joyce said. "The monthly payment plans allow parents to contract
for a certain amount of their bills; Bowdoin gets paid up front, and the
family pays the intermediary back on a monthly basis.
"Cost is a huge factor for us; when they get up to
$35,000 to 38,000 a year, all of a sudden, that's a huge percentage of
[a family's] income," he added. "Unless they're spreading it
out some way, either with the monthly payment plans or, more likely, with
loans, we get more and more families on that margin of need."
Much about next year's financial aid picture is unclear,
but will sharpen as spring moves in. The Student Aid Office attempts to
develop an idea of what assistance is required as the newest class is
admitted and already-enrolled students declare their needs.
"Returning students are asked for [financial aid application]
forms on March 5, and we know that some will be late because of April
15 and tax returns," Joyce said. "We spend most of March and
April with the Class of 2006, making sure that they've got what they need.
Then we do the returning students."
Since the College guarantees its ability to meet the need
of all returning students, one would hope that factors like the economy
would have been taken into consideration last year.
Indeed, Joyce said, such things were factored into budgetary
decisions. "We budget to meet the full need," he said. "We've
anticipated the tuition going up and the softening of the economy."