Financial aid numbers dip for a second year

By Annie Lewine

Correction: Please note that The Mac Weekly is correcting the article it originally published about the number of students receiving need-based financial aid. A reporter’s error in calculating the statistics originally published led to numbers lower than what the actual data reflect. The text below reflects the corrections made.See “A Note from the Editor, Oct. 5, 2007.

The number of incoming Macalester students receiving need-based financial aid continues to decrease more than two years after the Board of Trustees voted to move the college to a need-aware admissions system. This dip coincides with another trend: as Macalester becomes better known nationally, the percentage of students from Minnesota and the four bordering states has been shrinking.

Since the fall of 2005, the percentage of domestic first-year students receiving need-based financial aid has dropped slightly. This fall, 66.2 percent of first-years receive financial aid, down from 70.1 percent of first-years in the fall of 2005 and 66.9 percent in the fall of 2006.

The number of admitted students requesting financial assistance has also dropped. In the fall of 2005, 311 admitted domestic students applied for financial aid awards; the college granted 267 requests. Financial aid applications from incoming students were down to 270 this fall, and the college granted 238 awards. The percentage of domestic students receiving need-based aid does not include scholarships and aid provided for international students.

The class of 2011 is the second class to have been admitted under a need-aware admissions policy, through which an applicant’s ability to pay can be a consideration in the admissions process. Until admitting the class of 2010, Macalester called itself need-blind, meaning that the college did not consider applicants’ ability to pay when making admissions decisions.

The number of students receiving financial aid, as well as the amount of aid each student receives, has dropped since the shift to a need-aware admissions policy.

This year, students who applied for need-based aid were awarded aid packages, which on average covered 58 percent of Macalester’s comprehensive cost, including tuition, room and board. That percentage has decreased since 2005, the last year of need-blind admissions, when the average package covered 65 percent of total costs.

At least one pattern is trending up for the class of 2011. More students of color, both domestic and international, are on campus right now than at any other time in the college’s history.

This semester, domestic students of color constitute 23 percent of the first-year class, meaning that the class of 2011 is the most diverse entering group since 1970, according to admissions numbers. The total enrollment of students of color at Macalester is projected to be 342, or 18.3 percent, the highest in Macalester’s history, and a 7 percent increase from 2003.

Rising national publicity of the school has meant that members of the class of 2011 are also hail from farther away than they have been in the past. The number of students from the immediate five-state area-Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin-has dropped from 33.8 percent of the student body in 2005 to 31.3 percent this year. In-state student numbers have dropped from 22.6 percent of students in 2005 to 20.3 percent this year, meaning that this year over 57 percent of students are from other states and 12.5 percent are from other countries.

The differences in admissions policy are affecting campus-wide financial aid numbers. The total number of students receiving aid, international and domestic, has dropped from 73 percent in 2005 and 2004, the two final years of need-blind admissions, to 64 percent this year.

Despite the decreasing amount of aid being given, the way the financial aid office processes aid applications has not changed with the shift to need-aware admissions, according to Brian Lindeman ’88, Director of Financial Aid. Once students are admitted to Macalester, they are guaranteed 100 percent of their demonstrated need.

“The way we analyze demonstrated need and create aid packages hasn’t changed,” Lindeman said. “If the financial aid office wasn’t paying attention, we wouldn’t have noticed that any changes had been made.”

Some students have noticed a change in the student body over the past two years, which could be due to the change in admissions policy, according to Courtney Rivers ’08.

“Macalester’s definitely changing, but it’s not necessarily only because we’re need-aware,” Rivers said. “We’re also becoming a much more popular school and we’re building a forty million dollar athletic center, which are both affecting the type of students who want to come here.”

Despite the sense some students are feeling that the school is changing, more long-term members of the Macalester community view the situation differently.

“I noticed [that the school was changing] in 1986 when I was a sophomore,” Lindeman said. “And I’ve heard it every year since.