Accepted students applying for financial aid in 2009 received a phone call from the university to address any discrepancies between financial aid awards and expected family contributions. These phone calls served to alert students of the large financial burden that an NYU education places on students and their families.
University spokesperson John Beckman said the phone calls were not meant to dissuade accepted students from attending NYU but rather to discuss the financial impact of their college decision.
“The phone calls were undertake[n] as an effort to urge students and families to consider the financial consequences of their college choice,” Beckman said. “It was a principled and helpful attempt to help them focus at a time of high emotion.”
The university discontinued these phone conversations within a year, since the outreach failed to substantially influence the decisions of NYU’s prospective students. They instead focused on improving financial aid and affordability.
“As valuable as it was to try to arm people with information, no university can really substitute its judgment for a family’s decision-making on a complex set of trade-offs between finances, a student’s dreams and the many unique opportunities or programs a school may offer,” Beckman said. “We think of an NYU education as an investment, and a good one, but we know it is a significant one.”
Although the phone outreach was not as effective as the university wished it was, CAS sophomore Althea Meer said she would have liked to see the phone calls continue, since communication demonstrates a high level of interest on the university’s behalf.
“While I appreciate the emphasis that NYU has placed on affordability, I do not think that the university should have discontinued directly addressing accepted students’ families who were not receiving enough financial aid relative to their expected family contribution,” Meer said. “I think it makes it more of a personal effort to call students and their families; the willingness to talk to families and provide direct contact regarding options for funding shows that the university cares.”
NYU’s total endowment (including NYU Langone Medical Center) is $3.5 billion as of Aug. 31, 2015, and it only amounts to $89,000 per student — for ventures such as clubs, work compensation and renovations — after dividing the endowment by the student population. While this is smaller than the endowment of other large universities, Beckman said that NYU tries to provide all necessary financial background to accepted students to help them decide whether they can afford NYU.
“Our financial aid program is there to assist people in affording an NYU education,” Beckman said. “They offer all the aid NYU can right up front when they enter as freshmen, with financial need being the basis of virtually all of our aid.”
CAS sophomore Nina Bisbano said that because of the university’s limitations, the phone initiatives would not be very impactful on families’
“While I understand that the university was trying to be more involved in the decision-making process of these students through the phone conversations, it seems unclear as to what the university could add to the conversation other than reiterating the financials,” Bisbano said. “The conversations regarding whether a student can afford to attend NYU are more relevant within families, and the university’s involvement is inherently limited in that regard.”
The university hopes to continue providing prospective families with all necessary financial information to help make their decision in ways besides
“Notwithstanding all our affordability efforts and significant financial aid improvements, NYU remains committed to the idea that families should and must discuss finances in an informed manner as part of their decision-making between April 1 and May 1,” Beckman said. “Where a student chooses to go to school is an intensely personal and complex decision for that student and his or her family; NYU doesn’t substitute its judgment for the family’s. We do try to make sure they are armed with the information they need to make an informed decision.”
A version of this article appeared in the Oct. 24 print edition. Email Greta Chevance at [email protected]