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Looking Under the Hood at Institutional Aid

Looking Under the Hood at Institutional Aid

Guest post by Rich Novak, a senior fellow at AGB and former senior vice president for programs and research.  During his 21-year career at AGB, he led the Center for Public Trusteeship and Governance and oversaw the association's programs and research agenda.

If you are an institutional leader, I suspect at least one of the following scenarios will be familiar.

  • Your institution is rightfully concerned about the level of loan debt your students are accumulating, and how many hours a week students are working to help finance their educations.
  • Your institution is in strong competition for top students, fighting to retain its position in reputation and prestige.
  • Your institution is committed to backfilling the gaps in student financial need for low and moderate income students not covered by federal or state aid.
  • As a public university, your institution is hoping to entice out-of-state students and their needed tuition dollars to counter the continued hemorrhaging of state operating support.
  • As a small private college, your institution is operating on thin financial margins as it struggles to set tuition that will generate sufficient net revenues.

What do these institutions have in common? They are all experiencing an increased use and dependence on institutional student aid—the aid that is funded by reallocating institutional resources (primarily tuition dollars) or by the endowment.

The launch of the website is the public phase of our joint project on institutional student aid funded by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

AGB, along with the National Association of College and University Business Officers, has created an online tool to compare individual institutional aid metrics among national and self-selected peer groups.  This project, called Looking Under the Hood, allows institutions to benchmark over 30 aid metrics. The number of metrics will grow in time as more data is collected and loaded. The intent is to stimulate honest policy discussions in boardrooms and cabinet meetings regarding how aid affects the business model. We hope to spur questions such as:

  • Are aid policies consistent with our mission and values?
  • Is aid facilitating the graduation of our students?
  • What is our trend in net tuition revenues and is it sustainable?

Because of the sensitive nature of this data, the Under the Hood project is asking presidents to designate the individuals who will have access to this data (an email will be sent to presidents shortly).  That said, our hope is that all interested board members will have the opportunity to view it.

For more information on the Looking Under the Hood project and determining institutional student aid, visit AGB's website.

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