NYU financial aid still needs overhaul

WSN Editorial Board

Financial aid issues are central to many students here at NYU, as it is one of the most expensive private universities in the country. Despite aid in the forms of loans and grants, going to college on Washington Square is a significant financial investment. NYU often finds itself in the center of financial aid debates, and the question arises whether a degree from this university is worth the hardship. Many students, because of NYU’s fickle financial aid policies, are unable to attend, despite being offered admission to the school — a process known as gapping. Even though the amount of financial aid offered to students has been growing year after year, more can and should be done.

One area of needed improvement is financial aid for international students, who deserve inclusion. More often than not, the administration makes the assumption that all international students can foot the bill. However, this is not the case given that international students can represent different socioeconomic statuses. More merit and need-based aid should be offered to these students if we want to attract the best and brightest. We also need to look into what our peers do, and take a leaf from their book. Columbia University, for instance, guarantees to meet 100 percent of “all admitted first-year students’ demonstrated financial need for all four years, regardless of citizenship.” Given the traditional rivalry between these two schools, matching what Columbia does is the least our administration can do. Even though our endowment is smaller than Columbia’s, NYU is not doing enough for its international students.

Despite rising tuition rates and burdensome loans, college education is still, on the whole, a worthwhile investment. Those with an associates, bachelors and masters degree continue to earn more than those without one. Even at NYU, three-quarters of those surveyed in 2014 obtained jobs by or within three months of graduation, and the mean salary of those students was significantly greater than the median household income in New York City — albeit before taxes. But just because higher education is better than the alternative, it does not mean there aren’t improvements to be made.

Andrew Hamilton will take over as president of NYU in January 2016, and he will inherit these difficult issues from current President John Sexton. We don’t know what Hamilton’s approach to financial aid will be, but it would be excellent to see him taking a strong stance in favor of making college affordable — both for U.S. citizens and those abroad who see NYU as their best chance for a good education. Sexton’s style has been to treat NYU as a business and grow it accordingly. It remains to be seen how Hamilton, with his academic background in chemistry research, will deal with the high cost of tuition here. Hamilton has the opportunity to dramatically change NYU’s course, and making the school more accessible would be an extraordinary first step.

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