Recession’s Impact on Duke Financial Aid Unclear

A study by the Chronicle at Duke finds mixed bag of recession-related financial aid data.

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Everywhere you turn, there's a new study about the recession's impact on this or that. The results have become so predictable and depressing that when there's an outlier, it catches your eye. That's why Duke University's recent report that the number of applicants asking for financial aid hasn't changed much in the past three years is surprising.

The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper, found that the share of applicants seeking financial aid has fluctuated between 62 percent and 66 percent since 2003 (hat tip to the Chronicle's Zach Tracer). Duke has made some major changes in its financial aid policy in recent years, especially because of the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009. And with the sour taste of a poor economy still in everyone's mouth, Duke assumed it would get many more students asking for aid.

[Read about 10 factors affecting your financial aid.]

"It surprised me last year, and it surprised me this year. I would have suspected that the percentage would have increased," Christoph Guttentag, the dean of undergraduate admissions, tells the Chronicle.

An interesting side note to the story: The percentage of financial-aid applicants has remained the same, but it's not clear how much each applicant needs to afford Duke. And that may be where the biggest increase is, the report says. Either way, Duke will continue to encourage its students to apply for aid, no matter how much they need.

"We've always told people that there's no harm to applying for financial aid and that it can only be beneficial," Guttentag says. "That message has come across."

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