- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 7, 2001

A group of 28 top private colleges and universities have joined to create new guidelines designed to help streamline the financial-aid process and help the nation's neediest students obtain more money.
The new aid formula, called the "consensus approach to need analysis," is expected to boost the amount of college aid awarded to families and should offer them greater clarity in understanding the often-convoluted policies schools use to determine financial-aid disbursements.
The blueprint, released yesterday by Cornell University President Hunter R. Rawlings III, was crafted after two years of work by an ad hoc committee that included presidents from such schools as Yale and Stanford.
The policy, which should be in place for college-bound students entering in 2002, could be adopted by any college or university, the group said.
The guidelines come while states and schools are moving toward merit-based scholarships, which rely on student academic performance rather than a family's ability to contribute to college.
"It was getting harder and harder for the neediest students to feel that their needs could be met," said Mr. Rawlings. "There's been an erosion, over the past five years, especially a move toward more merit aid. This is an effort to assist the neediest families and to create a more consistent set of policies across universities."
Previously, financial-aid award disparities across private colleges and universities had created competition and in some cases, bidding wars, that kept out some needy students with slightly inferior academic credentials.
Many private colleges had previously relied on a financial-aid formula devised in the 1950s that hurt middle-income families. Seeking to change that, some colleges devised their own policies, which differed widely across the nation and caused confusion.
A more standardized policy and "consensus approach" would let more students seek out the college of their choice, Mr. Rawlings said.
All 28 schools that have endorsed the new aid formula, including Georgetown University, practice need-blind admissions, which means that they accept students regardless of their ability to pay for college.
The new guidelines call for schools to consider the cost of living for students in more expensive cities; reduce the amount families are expected to contribute to students' tuition, including those with more than one child in college; deal more reasonably and consistently with the financial resources of students whose parents are divorced or separated; make allowances for parents lacking retirement accounts; and use home equity as an indicator of a family's financial strength.
This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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