Presidents Plot Push for Aid Changes

It could be a long while before it’s clear whether a spirited discussion that took place here Wednesday ultimately prompts meaningful changes in how colleges allocate their precious financial aid dollars. But the college presidents and financial aid experts who led the conversation at the annual presidents’ institute of the Council of Independent Colleges have high hopes, if not quite confident expectations, that they have a shot at remaking the landscape.

Their aims are not modest: stop higher education from hurtling down its current path of giving ever-increasing amounts of financial aid to academically talented (but not necessarily financially needy) students. And do so by getting a group of peer institutions to agree collectively — through as little as a handshake or as much as a full-blown agreement or association, perhaps — to reorder their priorities to reemphasize the goal of meeting students’ full financial need.

"We’ve got a financial model in the American academy that is broken, and part of fixing that is changing our financial aid approach so it is more focused on need-based aid and access," said John A. Roush, president of Kentucky’s Centre College. "This was the best, most thoughtful conversation about student aid and where it should that I’ve been involved in in a long time."

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