University News

Students divided on financial aid priorities

Results reveal majority of student body disapproves of use of legacy status in admissions

By and
University News Editors
Thursday, March 13, 2014
This article is part of the series Spring 2014 Student Poll

See full results and methodology.


A Herald poll of undergraduates conducted March 3-4 found both approval and disapproval of President Christina Paxson’s job performance have each declined since November. A plurality of undergraduates endorsed providing financial aid for middle-income students currently ineligible to receive it as the University’s top aid priority. An overwhelming majority reported being glad they ended up at Brown, and half the student body disagrees with the consideration of legacy status in undergraduate admission as it is currently used by the University, according to the poll.

University governance

More students approved of Paxson’s handling of her job as president than disapproved — 42 percent to 25 percent — but both approval and disapproval fell since November’s Herald poll, which measured student opinion amid a polarized campus atmosphere following the Corporation’s decision not to divest from large U.S. coal companies and the cancellation of a scheduled lecture by former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. In comparison to the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 Herald poll, which was taken at a more comparable time, students’ disapproval of Paxson has increased significantly, jumping from 9 to 25 percent. After declining dramatically to 24 percent in the November poll, the share of the student body expressing no opinion about Paxson’s performance rose to 33 percent.

Undergraduate opinion was split on the  proposal in Paxson’s strategic plan to increase the total student and faculty population by roughly 1 percent per year over the next decade. About a third of students each supported, opposed and expressed no opinion on the proposed expansion.

Undergraduates are nearly evenly divided on whether the University’s top financial aid priority should be providing aid for currently ineligible middle-income students or extending need-blind admission to international, transfer and Resumed Undergraduate Education applicants. Nearly 37 percent of students indicated providing financial aid for middle-income students currently ineligible for such assistance should be the University’s top financial aid priority, with about 32 percent endorsing the University concentrating on extending need-blind admission to international, transfer and Resumed Undergraduate Education applicants and just over 19 percent stating the University should focus on increasing financial aid for students currently receiving it.

The poll revealed a correlation between the type of financial aid, if any, that students receive and what aspect of financial aid they think the University should prioritize. About 46 percent of students receiving grants covering all costs preferred expanding the practice of need-blind admission. A plurality of those receiving no financial aid assistance — around 39 percent — favored making aid available to students currently ineligible for it. Increasing financial aid for current recipients was the most popular option among those who use both grants and loans to finance their educations.

Almost 60 percent of undergraduates expressed support for the creation of Andrews Commons, with 27 percent strongly approving and 32 percent somewhat approving. Nearly 9 percent of students strongly disapproved, while about 19 percent somewhat disapproved and 13 percent reported having no opinion.

Nearly three times as many respondents strongly disagreed as strongly agreed that the students who participated in the Kelly lecture protests inside the auditorium should be subject to disciplinary action — about 30 percent to 11 percent. Roughly 25 percent somewhat agreed with disciplinary action for the protestors and 24 percent somewhat disagreed. Just under 10 percent said they either had no opinion or were not familiar enough to answer.

About half the student body either strongly or somewhat disagreed with the consideration of legacy status in undergraduate admission, compared to about 31 percent who strongly or somewhat agreed and around 19 percent reporting no opinion. Students with legacy status, who made up 16 percent of all poll respondents, were more likely to support the use of legacy in admission than those without legacy status, but even among legacy students, those in favor of the practice — 47 percent — did not constitute a majority. Just 28 percent of non-legacy students backed the use of legacy status in admission decisions.



Over two-thirds of the student body — roughly 69 percent — agreed with proposed legislation that Rhode Island should legalize the recreational use of marijuana, while 14 percent disagreed with the proposed legislation. Seventeen percent of respondents recorded no opinion.

Poll results found 11 percent of the student body uses false identification to purchase alcohol on a regular basis, and roughly 18 percent usually obtain alcohol from an individual with false identification.

Twenty-nine percent of students acquire alcohol from people who can legally purchase it. Of those respondents — about 85 percent were under the age of 21  ­— about one third also obtained alcohol from individuals with false identification.

About 35 percent of respondents indicated they usually obtain alcohol at social gatherings where it is provided. Almost three-quarters of those respondents were under the age of 21.

About 15 percent reported they do not drink alcohol.

Roughly 4 percent of students indicated they have decided not to get medical help for themselves in the past because they were under the influence of alcohol and feared disciplinary consequences. Twice as many students indicated they have decided not to seek medical attention for a friend who was under the influence of alcohol because one or both of them feared disciplinary consequences.


College choices

A vast majority of undergraduates — just over 89 percent — reported they were glad to have ended up attending Brown, though not all indicated that the University was their first-choice college. About 26 percent of students stated that though Brown was not their first-choice college, they are happy to be currently attending. About 4 percent of respondents reported Brown was their first choice, but they now wish they had chosen a different institution. 2 percent of respondents indicated they both wish they had chosen a different college and Brown was both not their first choice.

Half of the student body was not concerned that their choice of concentration will hinder their ability to find a job upon graduation. Of those who expressed no concern, about 36 percent concentrate in the physical sciences, 28 percent in the social sciences, 27 percent in the life sciences and 22 percent in the humanities and arts.

Nine percent of students are very concerned about finding a job after graduating, 20 percent are somewhat concerned and 19 percent are slightly concerned. Two percent of students do not plan to seek employment after graduation.

About a quarter of students skip class at least once a week, with 14 percent skipping class once a week, 11 percent more than once a week and just over 1 percent skipping class every day, poll results found. Roughly 15 percent of respondents reported they have never skipped a class. About 34 percent reported they skip class less than once a month, and 26 percent do so once or twice a month.

Underclassmen were more likely to have never skipped a class than upperclassmen, with about 21 percent of first-years and 19 percent of sophomores choosing that option, as opposed to 8 and 10 percent of juniors and seniors, respectively. Sophomores and juniors were the most likely to skip class once a week or more. About 29 percent of sophomores and 28 percent of juniors do so chose those options, compared to 23 percent of first-years and 21 percent of seniors.


  1. johnlonergan says:

    Financial aid priorities? Brown should charge its students nothing! It should move its revenue model to teach the world, and make the 4-year sojourn in Providence the pinnacle of a program that teaches millions around the world, from 8 to 80.

    Brown’s fiddling with tuition and financial aid is not tenable. Its sky-high tuitions (why does Brown seem to celebrate the fact that it’s always one of the 10 most expensive universities) are unsupportable.

    Brown’s costs and tuitions have grown faster than inflation for over 30 years. Not only are Brown’s students impacted, but so are other universities forced to accept Brown’s (and Harvard’s and Princeton’s) overpadded cost models and put that on the backs of students, parents and alums.

    At present, student loans are greater than $1.3 trillion in the US–higher than all credit card debt. This undue burden on students continues to grow because Brown and other universities refuse to reign in their skyrocketing expenses while, at the same time, developing other, sustainable revenue sources, such as teaching millions around the world.

    As an alum, I’ve spent over $250,000 on my continuing education after leaving Brown, including 2 years at Harvard. Not a penny of that went to Brown–all I get from my undergraduate alma mater are letters begging for contributions. Why should I or any other alum give money to Brown. Our contributions only contribute to perpetuating a bloated, fat bureaucracy that is declining in stature compared to other universities.

    Can Brown turn around? Yes, with visionary leadership and a clear program, implemented in 12 months. We did it with Magaziner-Maxwell in this time period. We can do it now.

  2. student2016 says:

    I think it’s misleading when the descriptions use phrases like “half the student body,” when only a fraction of the student body was actually polled. If this poll were conducted the same way others have been in the past, it was just made a available for several hours over the course of two days at the Blue Room.

  3. this is literally the worst bdh poll of all time…and that’s saying something

  4. Abdallah Talulah says:

    Yes but the undergraduates have not been told that Brown University has admitted and is giving financial aid to rich cheaters from those two countries. See what the poll will be like once this is known commonly. This has happened since the time of Ruth Simmons, and is still happening in the time of Chris Paxson.

  5. angry comment section regular says:

    holy crap people go to class SO MUCH. even if you’re determined to go to every single class, how do you not oversleep every once in a while?? i’m impressed

  6. Jay Huller says:

    It should be the priority to give financial aid to non-Americans who cheat in their applications (for admissions and financial aid), and whose dishonesty screams in the face of the Dean. Why? Because it already is a priority. Keeping it that way keeps the jobs easy for the Dean.

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