Section: News

FAFSA form frustrates

by Graham Reid

As the Class of 2019 takes shape, its members are no doubt wondering how they will pay for Kenyon. Just how hard is it to pay for a Kenyon education, and just how diverse is our student body?

Peer to peer: How does Kenyon’s aid stack up?

In a September 2014 New York Times article comparing the economic diversity of “top colleges,” a group the publication defined as colleges with a four-year graduation rate over 75 percent in 2011-12, Kenyon scored below average. The article looked at two measures: the fraction of students in a college’s first-year classes between 2011 and 2014 receiving Pell Grants, federal financial aid for high-need students, and the net price for low- to middle-income families (defined as households earning between $30,000 and $48,000 yearly and qualifying for federal financial aid). Kenyon’s below-average result came from the relatively low fraction of students receiving Pell Grants — eight percent. On the other hand, Kenyon’s average net price for low- to middle-income families was below average at $10,800.

Despite this critical treatment, Kenyon recently garnered praise from Time for having particularly generous financial aid. The article recognized 10 selective colleges that provide aid fully covering demonstrated need and that give merit scholarships.

Director of Financial Aid Craig Daugherty said he believes Kenyon’s commitment to financial aid is strong. “I can honestly say that Kenyon College has and continues to make a very strong investment in the financial aid programs at the College,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.

By the numbers: How much aid does Kenyon give?

The current financial aid budget –– including both merit scholarships, which can be awarded regardless of need, and financial aid –– is over $30 million for the entire student body, according to Interim Dean of Admissions Darryl Uy. Between 60 and 65 percent of Kenyon students receive some form of aid, according to Uy. While the total budget may seem large, it is smaller than that of many of Kenyon’s peers, which are able to admit more economically diverse classes. “We have to work within limited resources,” he said. 

Daugherty also noted that the percentage of students at Kenyon receiving Pell Grants has increased over the past three years, averaging nine-and-a-half percent, indicating an increase in economic diversity.

The College makes an effort to attract socioeconomically diverse students, and to make the process easier for those who cannot afford Kenyon’s sticker price –– $61,100 for the 2015-2016 school year – according to Uy; these efforts include working with community-based organizations that match compatible disadvantaged high school students with Kenyon, and visiting “different schools that we normally don’t go to, maybe public schools or charter schools in inner cities that are predominantly student of color or first gen rather than typical private and/or boarding schools that we hit every year.”

Uy also cited the Newman’s Own Foundation scholarship and the Trustee Opportunity scholarship both of which Kenyon awards to top students from underrepresented backgrounds, such as first-generation students and students from low-income families. The Newman scholarship eliminates the loan portion of the selected student’s financial aid package.

FAFSA freakouts: Contending with forms

The process of applying for financial aid can be arduous, especially for those who need it most. Kenyon requires applicants to fill out both the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA), which qualifies students for federal financial aid –– including Pell Grants –– and the PROFILE, an application administered by the College Board, which Kenyon uses to award its own institutional aid. This process can cause confusion, according to Uy. “I wish there was more education nationally,” he said. “If you don’t know how to do them, if you’ve never done them before, they’re daunting, they’re intimidating,” he said.

In fact, each year 2 million U.S. students do not receive federal financial aid that they would have qualified for simply because they failed to fill out the FAFSA form. This is in part due to the form’s length and complexity. Politicians, including President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators, have proposed shortening the form which currently comprises 108 questions. Others, however, caution that shortening that the federal FAFSA form will merely force students to fill out additional state forms. Furthermore, according to National Public Radio, many middle class families neglect to fill out the FAFSA as they incorrectly believe that only households below the poverty line are eligible for federal aid.

Kenyon does its best to resolve misconceptions and assist with the application process, according to Daugherty. “Kenyon reminds students through e-mails, ads in Newscope, and information on our website to apply for financial aid each year,” he wrote.

Bottom line: ability to pay can affect acceptance

Kenyon states that it meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for admitted students, which means that it will not admit a student who won’t be able to afford Kenyon. Since Kenyon is not need-blind, a family’s ability to pay can be a factor during the admissions process. According to Uy, Admissions “tr[ies] to be need-blind throughout the process as long as possible,” but uses family need as a more important factor affecting roughly 10 percent of applicants.

This process can hurt the College’s economic diversity –– when admissions staff need to watch the bottom line, they may not be free to admit the most economically diverse class possible. Uy said Admissions has tried calculating the annual amount of money that would be necessary to meet the financial needs of every student whom Kenyon would have liked to admit. “We did an exercise a few years ago and it would be at least an extra 2 million [dollars], if not more,” he said. “Obviously we don’t have that money.”


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