In 2018, Bowdoin topped the Princeton Review’s list of colleges with the best financial aid. The College is without question committed to making higher education more accessible and prides itself on meeting students’ full demonstrated need. Bowdoin boasts a need-blind admissions policy and has eliminated students’ loans, distributing grants instead. More than 50 percent of the Class of 2022 received a Bowdoin grant.
However, it’s no secret that some Bowdoin students take out loans to pay for their education. The Orient’s survey data this week found that 26 percent of first-year respondents have already taken out loans and 14 percent anticipate needing to before they graduate. These numbers indicate that students’ full need is not being met.
The process for determining need is cloudy, especially at private colleges like Bowdoin that use auxiliary tools to calculate financial aid packages. According to Bowdoin’s Office of Admission and Financial Aid, Bowdoin uses the College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile, coupled with other tools, to assemble student aid packages.
But in our own experiences and conversations with friends about theirs, we have observed that the calculator often produces a higher sum than the estimated family contribution produced by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For some students, while the estimation generated by the FAFSA seems financially feasible, the contribution Bowdoin ultimately requests may require that they take out loans.
While of course there are various reasons as to why this may be, it is impossible to understand this gap without having more information about the inner workings of the CSS Profile. The College, which has much more information about the reason for this discrepancy, should consider whether the College Board’s algorithm is truly representative of students’ full need.
Bowdoin is an institution which is deeply committed to its students and their well-being. However, students are commonly faced with the reality that, while the College claims that it will meet their full financial need, it does not. We believe that the College should be more transparent in how and why this gap comes to be.
We also believe that the high percentage of surveyed first years who take out loans is reflective of a greater flaw in our education system. According to a recent Atlantic article, the US spends more on higher education than almost any other developed country. Americans spend nearly $30,000 per student per year, about twice as much as the average developed country. The same poll found that 83 percent of Americans reported not being able to afford higher education.
And paying for college is only becoming more difficult. As the nation’s high school population diversifies, it will only become more important that the CSS Profile accurately calculates students’ demonstrated need.
Bowdoin has always been on the forefront of progressive financial aid policies. As it becomes increasingly clear that current calculations of aid do not fully serve all students, we trust that the College will continue to lead the charge.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Nell Fitzgerald, Dakota Griffin, Calder McHugh, Devin McKinney, Surya Milner and Jessica Piper.