From a New York Times feature about the difficulties, financial and otherwise, confronting low-income college students:
[Angelica] sensed she was on shakier ground than other low-income students and never understood why. The answer is buried in the aid archives: Emory repeatedly inflated her family’s income without telling her.
Angelica reported that her mother made $35,000 a year and paid about half of that in rent. With her housing costs so high, Emory assumed the family had extra money and assigned Mrs. Lady an income of $51,000. But Mrs. Lady was not hiding money. She was paying inflated post-hurricane rent with the help of Federal disaster aid, a detail Angelica had inadvertently omitted.
By counting money the family did not have, Emory not only increased the amount it expected Angelica to pay in addition to her financial aid. It also disqualified her from most of the school’s touted program of debt relief. Under the Emory Advantage plan the school replaces loans with grants for families making less than $50,000 a year. Moving Angelica just over the threshold placed her in a less-generous tier and forced her to borrow an additional $15,000 before she could qualify. The mistake will add years to her repayment plan.
She discovered what had happened only recently, after allowing a reporter to review her file with Emory officials. [...] Emory officials said they had to rely on the information Angelica provided and that they will not make retroactive adjustments. “The method that was used in her case was very standard methodology,” said J. Lynn Zimmerman, the senior vice provost who oversees financial aid. “I think that what’s unusual is that she really didn’t advocate for herself or ask for any kind of review. If she or her mother would have provided any additional information it would have triggered a conversation.”
Just remember, students. If the administration places extra barriers between you and your education and doesn’t inform you, it’s your fault for not fighting back. Unless you do, in which case you will be accused of exaggeration and intimidation.
Times writer Jason DeParle adds, “Emory can hardly be cast as indifferent to low-income students. It spends $94 million a year of its own money on financial aid and graduates its poorest students nearly as often as the rest.” The Emory Advantage program is a tremendous initiative, allowing the College to uphold a need-blind admission policy at a time when many other schools are abandoning theirs. It made possible by large donations within the last 15 years. Yet stories like this cannot but make us wonder about the discrepancy between PR and on-the-ground operations.
Thanks to Tressie MC for the Twitter heads-up.