Aid Policy Amendment Deserves Full Hearing

Machmud Makhmudov, Columnist and Student Senate Liaison

The backlash over the discovery of Oberlin’s recent changes to the financial aid policy — which has subsequently been delayed for a year — has sparked a variety of activist responses on campus. From petitions to rallies to policy meetings, students have been actively engaged in responding to the policy changes. For purposes of full disclosure, I’m a member of Student Senate and have been involved in parts of student activism over the course of the past week.

The source of discontent over the news of the policy change differs from student to student. For many, there exists a very tangible fear that living and eating at Oberlin will no longer be affordable to them. For others such as myself, frustration is tied up in seeing the duress and feelings of helplessness of our peers and sensing that Oberlin may be deviating from its values. From my perspective, the most pressing of these problems is derived from a sense of confusion about what the policy could and couldn’t potentially do.

As far as I’m aware, the first information made publicly available simply stated that financial aid packages would be “adjusted accordingly” for students who chose reduced housing or dining options. Upon speaking with the Office of Admissions and Office of Financial Aid, many students discovered that this means receiving a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their aid packages if they choose less expensive housing or dining options.

Moving forward, it’s imperative for the administration to have the opportunity to fully explain the policy, how it was devised and how it will affect most students. But in my opinion, understanding what it really means requires thinking systemati-

cally about financial aid distribution and methods of cost savings at Oberlin.

Quite frankly, the disproportionate amount of high-income students in Oberlin’s co-ops does beg the question of why it makes sense to automatically subsidize all OSCA members. For example, why are we giving more than $5,000 in annual savings to full-pay students in OSCA when we could be applying that money to giving more generous aid packages to students that actually need it, both in OSCA and out?

That’s a conversation that should be held between a variety of parties on campus, but unfortunately the process by which financial aid policy decisions are made — particularly this one — has left students in the dark.

As communicated in a statement that Student Senate presented at this Wednesday’s General Faculty meeting, the process of amending financial aid policies needs to be transparent and accessible to students. Otherwise, Oberlin runs the risk of perpetually finding itself in our present state: confused, frustrated and disconnected as a community.

Faculty members received Senate’s message from Wednesday well, and a number of them are already reaching out to find out how they can support students. I speak for myself and many others in expressing gratitude to the faculty for showing so much support for their students.

Now more than ever, it’s important to present a unified front and extend a willingness to work with any members of the campus community that are dedicated to maintaining Oberlin’s accessibility and quality of education — be they students, faculty, staff, alumni or administrators.

Most importantly, we must stand for transparency in the decisions that affect Oberlin students drastically, both now and in the future.