Spring 1996, The Nudepaper


by William Barker

William: I think Katherine Cook made it clear that finances weren't the only thing that will clear up the school's problems, but they seem to to focus more on financial aid at the meeting. What did you think about this?

Jamie Klein: yeah, I think that's more the crux of their approach. They do a lot of work with financial aid as an incentive to increase admissions. Their primary approach in order to get the numbers in is to make Goddard more competitive financially. Essentially what they are saying is, the standard approach for most colleges, with their financial aid package, is to offer merit-based aid to students who would ordinarily be full-pay students. What they are doing is buying full-pay students by offering some financial aid as an incentive. They generally base it upon SAT scores, grade point average, class rank, things which are typically used by a college to set them apart. What you have out there in the world is students applying to a variety of colleges. Goddard historically has always given aid based on financial need. So, the larger the need the more aid you receive; if you have no need whatsoever you don't receive any aid. And while Goddard may appeal to them more as a school they are being driven by their financial need.

WB: Which is kinda non-existent. I mean if the student can afford to pay the full fare, there really is no need at all. It's kinda like getting money even if you don't need it.

JK: Yeah, it's like getting money even if you don't need it, but in real terms what it means is that they're getting a $20,000 school for only $17,000. So what we're relying on is what that student will say is that I want to go to Goddard so bad that I'm willing to pay the extra three thousand. It's easier to convince students of that than parents, and parents are usually the ones paying the bills, especially with a full-pay student. So it puts Goddard at a severe disadvantage in that sense, from a marketing perspective. So essentially what they are proposing, is that we use the same marketing strategy, that we can know what other colleges are likely to be offering students for financial aid based on looking at their SAT scores, their grade point averages. We can say, OK, this is a full-pay student, but they're probably going to get so many thousand dollars from other schools.

WB: So we offer that to them.

JK: Right, so what they are suggesting is that we offer the same. What is happening right now is that Goddard doesn't get its "fair share" of full-pay students. We get students who are receiving large amounts of financial aid because we are being competitive in that realm; around 90% of our students receive financial aid. What then means is that while Goddard has a sticker-price of $20,000 a year, most people aren't paying nearly that. So, their strategy is to get us more of those students who are paying a higher price. That's what they are proposing, as far as financial aid is concerned.

WB: As a member of the Admissions department, how does that make you feel about this marketing strategy?

JK: Well, the strategy, as it is, goes against Goddard philosophy, both historically and, I think, in my interpretation of progressive education; that, historically, we've always given aid based entirely on aid. I think one of the main reasons for that, in progressive philosophy, is you can't divide students based on merit, that no one student deserves money, just for the sake of it, over another student. The other aspect goes back to a communal philosophy, that you pay what you can afford. Essentially, what we have for financial aid is a sliding scale fee; that's not money coming from somewhere else, that's the way financial aid works. So, as they first proposed the idea, I felt they contradicted Goddard's basic mission and philosophy. But that's not the end of the story; there's been a lot of discussion since then. I feel there are ways that we can work out something which will help us in the marketworld, from a more realistic perspective, without violating our philosophy or ethics. That's going to be tricky, and basically, I wouldn't call it a compromise, but more of the blending.

WB: Do you feel that any other specific ideas offered up to the assimilated into the Goddard mold?

JK: Yeah. First of all, they've suggested meeting 100% of all students financial need as something to consider, which I think is great. I mean, we've been talking about wanting to do that anyway. My proposal to offer merit-based aid, or to offer aid to non-need students across the board. Now, my immediate thinking, and what I think most people would ask, is "Why are you getting money to students who don't need it?" In reality, what we've done is reduced the tuition; that, if all students receive at least $3000 in aid, what we're essentially saying is that Goddard is a $17,000 school, not a $20,000 school.

WB: Yes, that is what referred to as non-existent money.

JK: Right, and then I think the natural question to ask then is why don't we simply reduce the tuition. Why not to simply say, okay Goddard is a $17,000 school? Instead of doing that, it would make it more competitive price-wise because a $20,000 school, even if they offer $3000, would still be the same price as Goddard at $17,000. So yes, we would be competitive that way. But a lot of marketing is your perception. And so if Goddard is perceived as a $17,000 school, it's going to be perceived as a lesser education than a $20,000 school. So that's where I'm still thinking about the ethics of it, that in fact it's misleading to do that. It's painting a false picture. But is that an acceptable compromise to meet the realities of the market with our philosophies?

WB: And what the consultants are saying is that yes, it is.

JK: Well, they haven't said. What the strategy is, is that $10,000 in hand, is better than a rejection note, someone saying that they're not going to come. What they're saying is that we use the strategy to offer these people enough money so that they'll come and pay us something rather than let them go altogether, and in the end your books balance, and you earn more money out of it.

WB: There's been a feeling around campus that perhaps the quality of people coming in is going down because we're focusing on full-pay students. And that a student can get admitted if it's shown that he or she can pay the full tuition, not really looking at what they will do when they get here. Is this a sentiment that has any validity?

JK: I think it's incorrect. We have never based admissions on financial need and I don't think we ever will. It's one of those things you might have in the back of your head while you read an application, oh this is a full pay student. But I'm pretty clear that it shouldn't play a role. I usually don't check to see whether or not they are full-pay. And I think that the other people in Admissions, the other students and staff that are on the (Admissions Committee) feel the same way. Which is also part of why the dilemma arises. But no, I mean that would be crazy, the last thing we would want, you have to think in long terms when you're thinking about admissions. If you accept somebody who's only going to be here for one semester, you're only going to get their money for one semester. Because they're going to be miserable, and then they're going to leave and tell everyone how miserable Goddard is which is the last thing you want. So in admitting students, you want to only admit students that are going to be satisfied here, and that's actually one of the criteria that we look at is Gddard going to be the right place for them, are they going to be happy here. Because we don't want to admit unsatisfied students, it's the best way to get bad press.

WB: Any thoughts on how these plans will eventually play out?

JK: Yeah. We've been told many different things, we haven't been told the bare bones of how the whole plan would work. Katherine will be coming back next week to help us begin implementing the plans. I have no idea whether there are any plans on Richard's part to have a discussion with the community about implementing this, I don't have any ideas whether he has any plans to discuss with the Admissions staff the implementing of this. We've been getting the message from Miller & Cook that they're willing to work with the Admissions staff on something that's a balance. But, it's not Miller & Cook's decision. They're here as consultants. So far I haven't even discuss any of this with Richard myself. So I don't know what the plan is in that sense.

WB: Do you think, if these ideas are put in, you will see a positive difference?

JK: Any massive influx of money will make a positive difference. And, I think one of the main aspects of their approach is it's very immediate. Their technique is to bring people in now. It's not a long-term approach. There are two things that you do in Admissions, you can bring people in now, and then there's building for next year.

WB: Is the short-term the remedy what we need, in your opinion?

JK: Um, I would have to say, in my opinion, bringing in 40 new students next semester, will have its ups and downs. It'll be great financially, it'll feel like we've got a lot of money in our pockets for a change. The college will feel growing pains. For it to feel effective in the long-range, what we need to consider is the academic program prepared for influx of students. The last thing we want is 40 extra students who are going to be miserable when they get here (WB: Because of lack of...) Lack of services. The campus has to change to accommodate new students, we have the facilities to do it, but do we have the staff and faculty to do it?