FINANCIAL AID (OR THE LACK THEREOF) IS LARGEST PROBLEM FACING ROSE-HULMAN
AT THIS TIME
As I prepare this column, spring is coming to an end and summer
looms. Spring is a bittersweet time for me as president of Rose-Hulman. While
the season reflects hope and promise, it also is a time that brings concern
to prospective students and their families. For spring is when financial aid
packages are awarded to next year's freshmen, and many families come to the
conclusion they will not be able to afford sending their son or daughter to
their college of choice - Rose-Hulman.
Rose-Hulman's inability to meet the financial aid needs of our
students is the largest problem weighing on me as president. Almost daily in
the spring, I receive a letter, a phone call or a visit from a family who is
distraught over the financial aid package they have received from us. Many inform
me they will be attending another college that has put more financial aid money
on the table. It's hard to argue against that logic.
On average, Rose-Hulman falls short of meeting the demonstrated
need of prospective students. Our average award package is $16,400, including
gifts, loans and work. Gift aid (support that does not have to be paid back)
ranges from $3,000 to $15,000. When all of the support is factored, the average
unmet need is $7,000 short of meeting a student's need as demonstrated by the
federal government through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FAFSA is the form used by all colleges to determine a student's financial
need to attend college. Our average freshman has a demonstrated annual need
The importance of financial aid is reflected in the students who
do attend Rose-Hulman. Ninety-two percent of our students receive financial
aid, probably one of the largest percentages in the Midwest. More than half
of our students work using work-study or work-opportunity programs. When our
students graduate, they carry, on average, $28,000 in student loans. That figure
does not include what parents may have borrowed to help pay for their child's
Financial aid discussions are packed with statistics, but there
are faces and names attached to the numbers. The reality of the problem is brought
home through the disappointed families who have to make some tough decisions
in the spring of their child's senior year of high school. When they visit campus
in the fall, they're excited. They meet students, sit in on classes and see
our activities. They've captured the Rose-Hulman vision of personalized undergraduate
education and want to be a part of it. That excitement fades quickly to disillusionment
when the financial aid packages come up too short.
I don't want to paint such a gloom and doom picture that says
these students' lives will come crashing down because they cannot attend Rose-Hulman.
It is sad for the shortterm, but they do move on. They are bright individuals
who have the potential to be successful in any college. That potential will
be developed at another institution because they were unable to afford the college
of their first choice.
As we look to solutions, one of the first areas we address is
costs. I'm pleased to report we are among the most cost-efficient colleges of
our type. Benchmarking shows we are among the lowest in per capita expenditures
in several areas. Two of our biggest cost factors are salaries and equipment.
We pay fairly well and I'm not embarrassed about it. Many of our faculty could
make more money plying their skills in the private sector. Our people are important;
they're the best and they need to be if Rose-Hulman wants to maintain its position
as one of the best undergraduate engineering and science college. On the equipment
side of the ledger, our students are able to use some state-of-the-art equipment
that is available only to graduate students at other colleges. Rose-Hulman spends
$2 million annually just to stay even with the changes in technology in our
labs, classrooms and information technology infrastructure.
Some older alumni will remember working their way through college
and question why our students cannot do that today. While most of our students
do work, their earning potential has been outstripped by rising costs of higher
education. What worked four decades ago is not applicable today.
As we look to solving the problem, the main answer lies in obtaining
more financial aid dollars. Our long-term plan calls for Rose-Hulman to meet
80 percent of a student's need through cash scholarships and 20 percent through
self-help such as loans and work study. We continually strive to raise such
support from alumni, friends, corporations and foundations. Rose-Hulman has
many generous benefactors who have joined in with our vision to be the best
and they provide a strong foundation on which to build scholarship support in
the future. I hope you will consider helping Rose-Hulman tackle this ever-present