Editorials

Editorial: Thanks to an anonymous donor

By
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Last weekend, the Corporation held its annual February meeting to vote on proposals, including funding and spending measures. The body approved a 4.4 percent tuition hike and accepted $63 million in gifts.

A notable item from the Corporation’s triannual gathering is that the increase in financial aid outpaces that of tuition, perhaps in part because the rise in donations from the capital campaign reduces the burden on students. Spending on undergraduate financial aid is set to grow by 8 percent to $112.5 million, with added help for middle-income families with earnings that have typically excluded them from significant support, though they may not have had the savings to pay tuition easily.

But the greatest point of support on financial aid comes for Resumed Undergraduate Education students. These are students who have been out of high school for more than six years but not yet completed bachelor’s degrees. Unless they plan to matriculate as first-years, and thus forfeit the chance to transfer two years of credits from other colleges, their applications are considered on a need-aware basis. But an anonymous gift of $15 million will increase funding for these students by $1 million annually for the next 15 years. While 17 RUE students currently attend Brown, this gift will allow the RUE population to increase gradually to 30 or more students.

The limitation of need-blind admission to applicants who are American citizens has in recent years rightfully emerged as a point of criticism of the University. There have been repeated calls to extend the policy to encompass international and transfer students. But while those groups make up more than 10 percent of undergraduates, RUE students amount to less than 1 percent. Providing full scholarships for all of these students — an unrealistic but also unnecessary hypothetical proposition — would cost just $1 million. We should strive to make college affordable for all students, but we can most easily incorporate the non-traditional students without depending on further spending cuts or revenue increases.

This is not to say that international and transfer students are less deserving than RUE students, but rather that RUE students often espouse an estimable commitment to education deserving of recognition by a liberal arts university that praises learning for the sake of learning. They are not following as well-trod paths as the usual herd of high schoolers who flock to Ivy League schools. Instead, for a variety of reasons, their lives led them down roads that did not head immediately toward college, and from these other experiences they are likely to bring with them an added appreciation of Brown’s opportunities.

Because many RUE students are not supported by their parents, and may indeed have their own children and mortgages, their financial standing is among the most precarious. But since many of them receive support from the federal government as military veterans and their number is so small, meeting their needs would not exert a significant financial strain on the University.

It is regrettable that the University did not preempt the gift by voluntarily increasing support for RUE students out of regular revenue years ago, but there is still room to show commitment to this unique sector of our community. Brown should be a place where students, as well as applicants, are treated equally, regardless of their parents’ economic standing. It may be many years before this principle can be applied to all undergraduates, but the University should continue making efforts to recognize the commitment shown by non-traditional students and the experiences they bring to our community.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Baxter DiFabrizio ’15. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.