Voices: Letters to Editor

This magazine article is part of Autumn 2014 / Issue 79

Understanding F&M’s Aid Strategy for Talent Recruitment

In the summer issue of Franklin & Marshall Magazine, Cheryl Berkebile Stowell ’87 commented on the College’s mention in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s article “Merit Aid Won’t Help Colleges Survive.” She expressed that it was unwise for the College to change its aid policies and to discontinue the practice of awarding merit-based aid.

The interest the College has received in response to Ms. Stowell’s letter on the issue of merit-based aid reminds us how important it is for the F&M family to have a full and accurate understanding of the role College policies play in sustaining the legacy of academic excellence at Franklin & Marshall and in our talent recruitment strategies and practices.

In 2008, the College’s Board of Trustees approved an aggressive growth strategy for student aid, and a new policy to discontinue the practice of awarding most forms of merit-based financial aid. In making this decision, the Board relied upon data and analysis that demonstrated that merit-based aid at F&M had been ineffective at persuading many of the most attractive admitted students to accept F&M’s offer of admission.

As a result of this action, the College now meets the full demonstrated need of every student we enroll for all four years, where it had not in the past. In addition, the institutional grant aid provided to each first-year class has more than doubled, from $5.8 million for the Class of 2012 to approximately $13 million for the Class of 2018.

Increasing investment in need-based aid has allowed F&M to create and execute a new national talent recruitment strategy that taps into broader pools of academically proficient students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Our research tells us that a far greater majority of American households could benefit from need-based aid to attend selective colleges like F&M than could attend without financial aid, which is only 7 percent. Investing in need-based aid positions us to respond to students in the 93 percent of American families, where the depth of talent is quite deep and competitive.

Leveraging our more generous need-based aid resources and our new talent recruitment strategy has resulted in increasing academic depth in our applicant pool and to our incoming classes, as defined by average SAT score, geographic diversity and ethnic diversity. The Class of 2018, with its 1,312 SAT average, represents the seventh consecutive class with average SAT scores above 1,300. It is the fourth class in a row enrolled with an admit rate less than 40 percent. Our stronger admission profile is a key component in the College’s recent rise to 37th (from 45th) in the U.S. News and World Report National Liberal Arts College Rankings.

Recognizing that a diverse student body can be a rich source of learning and growth, our improvements in the diversification of our incoming classes demonstrates an even stronger trend. In contrast to the Class of 2012 where only 11 percent of the incoming students were domestic students of color, 5 percent were Pell Grant recipients and 9 percent were international, the Class of 2018 comprises 23 percent domestic students of color, 21 percent Pell Grant recipients and 13 percent international students.

And our strategies and policies are directly benefiting our students. F&M has countered national trends and decreased student debt at graduation dramatically, from $33,200 for the Class of 2012 to an estimated $25,800 for the Class of 2015. F&M’s three-year-old Student Loan Relief Program caps the loans packaged for qualifying entering students in the low and middle bracket of financial need at $10,000 over their four years in college, replacing $9,000 in what previously would have been packaged as loans over four years with institutional grants.

The cost of expanding financial aid has been borne mostly by the redistribution of existing resources. The College has succeeded in keeping tuition increases to a minimum, with increases for tuition, room and board averaging only 3.78 percent from 2009-10 through 2014-15.

Our financial strategy includes prioritizing student aid as a crucial investment in fundraising. Thanks to the generosity of F&M alumni and friends last year, Franklin & Marshall raised $5.04 million for financial aid, a 49 percent increase over the previous year and the highest total in the College’s history.

The success of our aid policies and our talent recruitment strategies are critically important to ensuring that F&M remains a leading national liberal arts college. I always welcome the opportunity to discuss these important topics with our community.

Daniel Lugo
Vice President & Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Our Great City

In the feature about Lancaster in the summer issue (“City in Motion”), you failed to mention that Lancaster was the capital of Pennsylvania from 1799 to 1812. Thanks for featuring Lancaster in that issue. Did you know Old Main is on the highest point in the city? There was once a gallows there so that a criminal who was about to be hanged got a last look at our great city.

Paul H. Ripple, M.D., ’43
Lancaster, Pa.

In Memory of Professors We’ll Miss

Those of us who work in the higher-ed biz routinely use phrases like “make a difference” and “change lives.” We tell prospective students (and their bill-paying parents) that’s what colleges do.

It’s good to be reminded it’s true. Some four decades ago, on the first morning of my first day as an F&M freshman, I sat in a classroom and watched, terrified, as Gordon Wickstrom strode into the room. Debonair in a plum-colored cravat and tweed jacket and tinted aviator specs, he spoke in a rumbling baritone with words so erudite I scribbled them in the margins of my notes so I could look them up later. I couldn’t imagine how I would survive the morning, let alone the rest of college.

But I got through Drama 7 and Gordon’s classes on Shakespeare and Irish theater and dramatic criticism. I played Cordelia to his Lear. When he became department chair, he hired me as his work-study assistant, and I spent much of my senior year in his office filing papers and collecting mail. We paused at 10 every morning for a cup of Lapsang Souchong.

We remained friends for the next 40 years. When I sent him a copy of my first book, he asked me how I’d learned to write, and I told him to look in the acknowledgements for his name. Two weeks before his death, Gordon was still teaching me. “I have no regrets,” he said, and although his voice wavered, I knew he meant it. He’d been preparing for years. “My death will be my final performance, and I want to do it well,” he said on the last occasion I saw him in person—over lunch, with his marvelous wife, Betty, in Denver three years ago.

He taught us all. In ways big and small—and often unseen except to those who are transformed—colleges change lives every day. I will forever be grateful.

Editor’s note: Professor Gordon Wickstrom’s obituary appears on page 48 of this issue.

Leslie Stainton ’77
Editor, University of Michigan School of Public Health
Ann Arbor, Mich.

I was very sorry to learn of the death of Professor Solomon Wank (Spring 2014). He was brilliant, learned, and a good man. He made an impression on me as a freshman in a class on European History. Later, he guided me on a senior project I undertook and we worked closely. He taught me a great deal about history and encouraged a lifelong love for the subject. Years later, when I turned to law instead of teaching, he said it was a loss. But I was never going to be a teacher such as he was. Solomon Wank was a great asset to F&M and the study of history generally. He is greatly missed.

George Appel ’88
Marysville, Wash.

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From the Twitterverse

Kate Jacobson:  Met a student today who said “FandMCollege was so alive and welcoming when I visited, I wanted to stay and jump right in immediately!”

Water St. Ministries:  Thanks Diplomats for teaming up and donating nearly 7,000 diapers to moms in need!

Katie O. Berkey ’05:  What do FandMCollege and #SharkWeek have in common? ‘Jaws’ star Roy Scheider ’55!

Alanna Koehler ’15:  So proud of my FandMCollege lab, an “academic partner” cited in a piece on the Clinic for Special Children!

Franklin & Marshall:  Thanks to all our alumni, parents and friends who came back to campus for #fandmHomecoming!



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