Lack of Transparency Surrounding Changes to Aid Policy Unacceptable

Editorial Board

Since students learned of the controversial financial aid policy change, tensions have been high. Within hours of their discovery, students were organizing demonstrations and circulating information. Obies are angry, and they have a right to be. Whether or not the policy change affects them, they likely know someone whom it does affect. The equally great injustice, however, lies nowhere in the text itself — rather, it’s in the College’s flippant lack of communication with both current and prospective students and their parents regarding the revision’s details.

The result, of course, is that there are a lot of questions and very few answers surrounding the recent change, which in turn leads to misinformation and confusion. College administrators have repeatedly attempted to deflect student inquiries and instead refocus the conversation on this institution’s larger goals for financial accessibility and its “historic commitment to providing access to students representing the socioeconomic spectrum.”

The question is not, as the College would like to pose it, whether Oberlin provides “more robust” financial aid packages than comparable institutions, nor is it whether OSCA, as a whole, pulls financial resources from the College that the administration has, apparently, decided are best dedicated elsewhere. The issue is that this policy was discreetly posted on the College’s website sometime in the last couple of months, after which administrators sat on their hands and waited to see if anyone would notice. When they did, the College removed the OnCampus post that described the change in detail and conceded that they blundered in not foreseeing the staunch student opposition and concern regarding this change.

This policy amendment will determine whether or not OSCA can provide an alternative for students struggling to afford to study at this college — which, with next year’s tuition creeping above $48,000, is one of the most expensive institutions of higher learning in the country, regardless of its generous financial aid packages. Even basic questions like, “Will this policy increase the average cost of Oberlin for affected students?” are evaded by senior College administrators. There is no excuse for the fact that none of the College’s top personnel know the answer to this and other basic questions about a policy they originally intended to implement as early as next year. But, frankly, we doesn’t buy it.

The more probable conclusion to draw when confronted with blatant refusal to answer basic questions, however, is that these individuals do in fact have the answers. If indeed the College was hoping to institute this change without a student response, it clearly doesn’t know its student body. It seems obvious that, at a school with over three-quarters of its students receiving financial aid and nearly a quarter in OSCA, a major policy shift affecting these groups would make headlines.

While the College has quietly agreed to postpone the policy’s implementation for a year, the problem at the heart of this issue remains: Administrators clearly don’t feel the need to be straightforward with the student body, even about matters as sensitive and precarious as financial aid.

Perhaps this can be a learning experience for the administration; when attempting to initiate change, they could save everyone — including themselves — considerable time and frustration by being transparent about the policy and implementation process from the beginning.