Letter to the editor

For last week’s story on the percentage of Pell Grant recipients enrolled at the college, The Lafayette interviewed members of the Enrollment Division of the Administration, but no faculty member was cited in the article. The Faculty Enrollment Planning Committee (EPC) is charged with, among other things, “mak[ing] policy recommendations … on the admission of students to the College … [and] … on the awarding of financial aid to students.”

During the academic year 2014-2015, Professor von Wahl, then Chair of EPC, brought the New York Times Pell rankings to the committee for deliberation. Following several animated meetings, EPC passed a motion in April 2015 to increase the Pell percentage at the college from 11 percent to 13 percent. While Enrollment argued that Pell percentage is not necessarily the best gauge of accessibility, in recent years, Enrollment has been forthcoming with Pell data, acknowledging that the pandemic resulted in a significant loss on that front. President Hurd worked last year to accelerate the college’s recovery regarding Pell, and has charged Enrollment with increasing our Pell percentage even further.

The college offers athletic and academic merit aid, including the POSSE program. While President Rothkopf courageously voted against athletic merit aid, the same cannot be said of President Weiss, but maybe he just read the writing on the proverbial wall. President Byerly’s plan to move Lafayette toward its need-blind aspiration took aim at academic merit aid (as athletic merit aid was apparently sacrosanct). Think about that. In January 2016, EPC, chaired by Professor Dubischar, rendered (unanimous) significant advice which explicitly did not endorse cutting academic merit aid such as the D.C. POSSE, and when that plan was announced anyway, ‘Pards swiftly and decisively “Brought the Roar.”

The issue of how to allocate financial aid is not simple. The numbers in The Lafayette article make plain that prioritizing Pell percentage may squeeze financial aid elsewhere. President Hurd and the Administration have raised awareness of the “missing middle” (in terms of family income) in our applicant pool. Lafayette College aspires to be need blind in admissions, but at present and for the foreseeable future it will have to take need into account at some point. As the article states, we meet the calculated need of all admitted students, yet we are not need blind. The implications form the stark reality that the Enrollment Division has to grapple with each cycle, and at the moment they are working hard to land us the Class of 2027.

Professor Justin Corvino, Chair of the Faculty Enrollment Planning Committee

Disclaimer: This letter was not voted on or discussed in an EPC meeting.