Increasingly elitist aid policy cheats us all

By Megan Grinde

My faith in the good intentions of Macalester’s administration suffered a huge blow when I read the article on trends in financial aid at Macalester (“Colleges debate use of grants compared to loans for financial aid packages,” Feb. 22).In the midst of a string of excuses for why Macalester is not following suit with other similar-caliber institutions and replacing student loans with grants, the director of financial aid, Brian Lindeman, is quoted as saying, “whether we like it or not, the realities of being a selective institution is having a wealthier student body.”

I sincerely hope that I am not alone in being completely appalled at this institutional resignation to classism in higher education.

According to last week’s issue of The Mac Weekly, President Rosenberg remains optimistic that, despite the nation-wide recession, the capital campaign for our new athletic facility will continue in its fund-raising success, and that American philanthropy will remain resilient (“Capital Campaign proceeds despite recession,” Feb. 22). In the very same issue, the director of financial aid cites the impracticality of raising sufficient funds as Macalester’s excuse for lagging behind its peers in student aid packages.

It seems more than slightly ironic that just two short years after we eliminated need-blind admissions because of financial constraints, we have enthusiastically begun construction of a $150 million athletics facility.

We were all drawn here by advertisements of the wide range of backgrounds and perspectives Macalester offers. Yet even while it pimps student diversity as its trademark, the administration seems to be waving a white flag in the face of elitism and thereby eliminating an entire demographic from the list of potential students-the poor.

What’s next? “Whether we like it or not, the realities of being a selective institution is having a more white, upper-middle class, suburbanite student body?” Wealthy, white, suburban children tend to score best, as a group, in college entrance exams and AP tests, so yes, being more selective by conventional definitions would probably bring more students from those groups.

I would assume, however, that an institution so dedicated to breaking down barriers of race and class would be able to recognize that resigning itself to ‘business-as-usual’ in college admissions only serves to reinforce those barriers. I would hope that an institution so apparently committed to diversity could see the value in defying the conventional definitions of ‘selective’ and get over its obsession with making the top of any list that means moving closer and closer to a student body made up solely of rich white kids.

I, for one, could do without the “Cheap (ha!) smart hotties with a conscience” hype.

Megan Grinde ’08 can be reached at [email protected]