When I first posed this question to Mr. Kumarasamy, he suggested that it was some kind of game. I objected to this, since a lot of people think they can’t afford. its list price of around $ 75,000, but can run it at $ 50,000 with this discount on merit assistance. How can that play out on the system, I asked, when it doesn’t give them any idea up front as to whether they could get that $ 25,000?
Finally, he came. “What is not good for the student is not good for any of us,” he said. But he also quickly pointed out the zero-sum nature of an early decision; if you bail out on an acceptance, you’ve taken the place of someone else – maybe someone even more needy than you – who wished they could come in early in senior year of high school and accept the offer of financial aid from the school.
“There is a difference between behavior that occurs in rare cases and behavior that we want to encourage,” Northeastern spokesperson Michael Armini said by email.
I would like to encourage this behavior a little more than Northeastern, and I would like the college counselors in high schools to do that too.
It would be so much easier if none of these scans were needed, but the first decisions will be with us for a while because the colleges love it so much. When registrars (as they are now often called themselves) admit a large portion of a class at a point in the process where students feel pressured to go if they enter, it gives schools great control over the precise types of students in a given class – and how much income they will generate.
So as long as we’re stuck with a very flawed system, schools should say what percentage of students get merit aid in the first decision cycle, if they have one, and also offer merit aid. All schools should also indicate what percentage of the overall class receives merit support and explain how they define the term.
They should say that the advance ruling is not binding and they should pledge not to punish prospective high school applicants where former applicants have turned away from an early ruling acceptance. They should also clarify if they have a problem with people turning down an early ruling offer because they haven’t received enough merit assistance.