Letter to the Community: Financial Aid
Issue   |   Wed, 09/27/2017 - 00:08

To the Amherst Community:

I am writing in response to flyers recently posted on campus and student concern expressed in a recent issue of The Student asserting that the Office of Financial Aid (OFA) has inequitably served low-income students. For both current and future Amherst students, these actions, which included disrespectful comments about the OFA staff, have created the very real possibility of actually limiting important access to financial resources. I believe that that outcome is not what anyone connected to Amherst desires.

Understanding the financial aid process at Amherst begins with learning several important facts. Amherst is among only four institutions in the nation that practices a need-blind admission process for all applicants, meets 100 percent of every admitted student’s demonstrated financial need regardless of citizenship and does not package loans. The college has been and continues to be strongly committed to calculating financial need and meeting every student’s demonstrated need consistently and equitably. Amherst’s goals in offering one of the country’s most generous, entirely need-based financial aid programs — and one of the country’s very few entirely need-blind admission processes — are to ensure that we can attract and admit the most talented students without regard to their ability to pay and that the cost of an Amherst education will be within their reach.

Regarding our policies and practices, I offer a few equally important facts. First, regardless of increases in tuition or costs of attending Amherst, if there are no changes in a family’s financial circumstances, the college’s estimated family contribution remains the same and the college absorbs the increases in cost. When a change does occur, annual award notifications detail what circumstances may have impacted any increases or decreases to the family contribution. Examples might be significant changes in household income or the college enrollment or graduation of a sibling. Second, while the college does not package loans, some families utilize federal or Amherst-subsidized low interest educational loans in their financing plan. In contrast to the majority of aid programs where loans are routinely packaged, Amherst meets each student’s full financial need with a combination of self-help from earnings and grant aid.

The college has taken a number of recent steps to increase transparency about the financial aid process at Amherst. In April 2017, we added a second cost calculator, MyinTuition, to the Financial Aid website — it takes only a few minutes to complete, includes only six questions and is available in both English and Spanish. Just last month, the OFA added staff to support a financial aid peer advising program and expand the office’s social media presence to enhance communication with students.

I strongly encourage anyone with questions or concerns to work with OFA deans to learn more about the process at Amherst and their own financial aid situation. The entire OFA staff is dedicated to openly engaging with students and their families to support their Amherst education.