Grinnell College’s trustees will be meeting this weekend to decide the direction of the College’s financial aid policies. In light of the ongoing campus conversation and the upcoming vote, we at the Scarlet & Black would like to register our opinion in strong support of maintaining truly need-blind policies as a demonstration of the College’s commitment to social justice.
As described in multiple news articles and editorials last semester in the S&B, there are a variety of options on the table—most of which would not require Grinnell to relinquish its status as an officially need-blind institution. However, many of the policy changes would go against the spirit of need-blind admissions and subtly impact the profile of the student body by decreasing the number of students who demonstrate financial need. As leaders of a college driven by social justice, the trustees need to carefully consider the broader effects of various policies.
We understand that the College faces serious threats to its financial sustainability. While we appreciate the difficult balancing act that the administration is confronting, we remain unconvinced that it is necessary to sacrifice the need-blind ideal in pursuit of revenue generation. Furthermore, we hope that the trustees recognize that the College is not yet in crisis mode; we should not make unjust, far-reaching and perhaps irreversible changes before efforts such as improvements to alumni giving materialize.
We accept that some changes have to be made immediately, and thus recommend that Grinnell institute a non-binding early action deadline, moderately increase loan caps, and stop indexing merit scholarships as part of a broader plan to cut costs and increase alumni giving. However, the S&B vehemently disagrees with other propositions, such as lowering the qualifications for merit aid to entice wealthy students, using the CSS profile—which calculates need differently, to the detriment of many middle-income families—and enforcing deadlines more strictly. These policy changes target the lower middle class and students of color in favor of wealthy students.
Instituting policies that benefit high-income students to the detriment of middle- and low-income students is fundamentally unjust. It perpetuates class inequality by limiting the access of lower-income students to a high-quality education—specifically, students who already lack many of the privileges of high-income students. Furthermore, according to the Office of Admissions, many of these policies would in fact decrease the student body’s academic profile, which is contrary to the College’s dedication to academic excellence.
Many students, including the editors of the S&B, came to Grinnell College because the school demonstrated its commitment to social justice via its financial aid policies. We expected fellow students to come from the full spectrum of economic backgrounds so that we could learn from each different experience; we did not want the dichotomy of class that occurs when colleges balance high Pell grant numbers with low-need students, resulting in a polarized student body where students do not learn from or interact with each other.
We hope that the Trustees will choose a set of policies that allow Grinnell College to remain a leader among peer institutions in socially just admissions and financial aid practices. We believe that such a choice is fundamental to the unique student experience at Grinnell. We implore the trustees to vote based on Grinnell College’s core values—diversity, academic excellence and social responsibility—by voting for truly need-blind admissions practices.