One of the greatest problems facing students who have decided to attend college is the financial burden. While some learning institutions try to keep their tuitions modest, it's still difficult for students to meet all expenses through private means; this is where financial aid can help. Exactly who does financial aid help, though? Why does a student who is deemed desirable by colleges and universities for his or her sport (or some other ability) receive aid beyond need, while another student of equal, or higher, academic ability, whose three-member family makes only $30,000 dollars a year, hardly obtains any aid? Financial aid should be given on the basis of need, not the ability to play sports.
There are many people who don't truly need aid, yet they receive it. William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid for Harvard, comments that a temptation some colleges use to lure athletes to their schools is an offering of "merit awards." This sort of gift gives full scholarships and otherwise significant aid beyond need. With financial aid budgets severely strained, such lures risk other students' access to financial assistance.
Such financial aid awards have multiplied rapidly in the past decade. This is due to the need to impress those individuals who would donate funds to the college. That impression, unfortunately, is created through league-winning football, basketball, and hockey teams.
Financial aid seems a double-edged sword. It does help students immensely by relieving some of the financial burden. It seems, though, that most of the money given to athletes is to impress the philanthropists rather than help needy students. n
Reviewed in 1991
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.