Inside the Aid Office
Just how is the money doled out? A day behind the scenes at Pomona College offers some answers
She types up an award giving the student about $15,000 in grants. Since that means these parents, who are already supporting an older child in college, will have to kick in nearly a fifth of their income toward this student's education, she expects them to appeal. She writes herself a note on the file. Depending on the manner in which they appeal, she may ask them for more information about the second property. "You have to be prepared when they get back at you," she says. The most successful appeals, she says, tend to be accompanied by evidence that the family truly can't afford Pomona's bills. Attempts to horse-trade by asking Pomona to match better offers don't work, since Pomona considers only the student's financial need, she says. Appeals in person can be especially persuasive.
Case 3: Horatio Alger
It took less than just a few seconds for Patricia Coye, longtime director of Pomona's aid office, to arrange a free ride for a student who had managed good grades and test scores in a very poor neighborhood and school. Pomona, like a growing number of colleges, no longer asks many low-income students to borrow as a part of the aid package, so this student will have to contribute only about $1,000 in work-study earnings. Most students aren't aware that the vast majority of schools expect even the poorest students to scrape together an average of $7,500 a year or so. Only those who apply to the handful of generous schools like Pomona can hope for a full ride. (A list of the schools that claim to meet full need is at www.usnews.com/fullneed.)
But even Pomona's generosity is often criticized, Coye says, remembering a mother who appealed for more aid, complaining that there was nothing left over from her monthly budget, which she said included cable bills, health club fees, and $50 a month in bottled water delivery. Coye wrote her a polite letter suggesting she might consider trimming luxuries. "You can't make everybody happy," she says. But on this day, she had probably made at least one family ecstatic.