By Joe Wlos
Grinnell’s community continued discussing financial aid and admissions this week, with students, staff and alumni attempting to clarify their positions before an upcoming conference call with the Board of Trustees on Wednesday.
All groups have concluded that they support the College’s need-blind policy, while understanding that the administration must make changes to ensure Grinnell’s financial stability.
“We want to remain true to the values of the College. I think that’s where need-blind and meeting one hundred percent of demonstrated need fit in,” said Carlie VanWilligen, Associate Director of Analytic Support and Chair of the Staff Council. “That has been one thing that we wanted to affirm in our position statement.”
However, she said financial sustainability is also important.
“For the staff, this is our livelihoods, so we are very involved and very conscious of the fact that the College needs to remain fiscally viable,” VanWilligen said.
In a letter to all alumni, the Alumni Council explained the College’s financial situation and asked graduates to share their views with the administration. The letter states that the Council “values and supports the College’s current policy on need-blind admission and meeting 100% of demonstrated student need.”
The Council believes that most alumni feel similarly. However, the Council recognizes that the large community of alumni will have many different ideas and opinions about the tradeoffs the College should make, so it is allowing individual alumni to provide input rather than the Council taking a detailed stand itself. The letter provided an email address for alumni to offer feedback.
“We believe that alumni should educate themselves about the issue and make their voices heard,” said Mathew Welch ’96, President of the Alumni Council.
“We had over 150 alumni responses,” Welch said. “It was great to see such a response to the issue.”
As the discussion continues, some Grinnellians have decided to take financial matters into their own hands. The Staff Council’s Process Analysis Committee is searching for efficiencies in offices to save money.
“It helps employees feel like they’re doing something for the College, and it gives realization to the College that the staff are here to help students and have a vested interest in the College,” VanWilligen said.
The Process Analysis Committee recently consolidated the College’s purchase of water jugs for office use. VanWilligen estimated that the College will save $10,000 because of the project. It will continue looking for ways to improve the College’s finances.
“Are we going to lower expenditures by $8 million? No,” VanWilligen said. “But if that helps us get breathing room while we work on some of these other things, I think that can only help the College.”
Cutting costs is not the only way to help. Welch stressed that alumni must “stay informed, stay involved, and help with fundraising when possible.”
The Alumni Council’s letter said that any donation to the College is valuable and much appreciated, especially given the College’s low level of alumni giving.
“We are among the bottom 10 institutions in terms of alumni giving per enrolled student compared to our 45 peers who are also both need-blind and cover full need,” the letter said.
However, Welch acknowledged that increased fundraising cannot solve the problem alone.
On the current student side, Joint Board approved the resolution that SGA presented last week by a vote of 14 to zero, with one abstention. The only significant change was adding a line asking to be kept informed as the process continues.
Solomon Miller ’13, a former senator and former editor-in-chief of the S&B, had argued at the previous Joint Board for SGA to take positions on the specific policy proposals rather than a broad resolution about values and need-blind admissions alone.
In an effort to get SGA to take specific positions, Miller introduced 11 resolutions this week, each corresponding to a policy proposal from the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid. Joint Board postponed consideration of them to the first meeting of next semester, arguing it needed more time and to give students an opportunity to provide input.
The statements from students, staff, alumni and faculty will be presented on the conference call with trustees Wednesday. The Board of Trustees will make its decision on financial aid changes at its February meeting.