This weekend, while most students were trapped in the library anxiously studying for midterms, two staff members — McKenzie Maddox and Heather Hartel — traveled to Washington, D.C. for a conference on higher education policy.
The conference was hosted by Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit that aims to empower young Americans through reforming higher education, healthcare and jobs.
The day consisted of a series of panel discussions with journalists, policy discussions with legislative professionals, conversations with peer student journalists and ended with meetings on Capitol Hill.
The highlight of the program was the discussion with Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia regarding higher education policy in the past and looking forward to the future.
The event offered clarity about a glaring issue on campus: financial aid policy. For example, take Wake Forest’s college scorecard. The U.S. Department of Education under the Obama administration created the scorecard system to universalize rankings of higher education institutions in terms of affordability.
At facevalue, the scorecard shows Wake Forest to be affordable. It shows that 87 percent of students are able to pay off their debt with relatively no issues.
However, on a deeper level, the numbers become deceptive. Only 32 percent of students take out student loans, and these loans amount to an average of $22,320 of debt.
$22,320 seems like a lot of debt. However, because this is only an average it does not take into account the extremes. These two extremes are the majority of students, 68 percent to be exact, that do not take out any student loans. Compared to students at other institutions, this demonstrates a large amount of financial assistance from or full dependency on parents or other sponsors in paying for college tuition.
However, the more glaring issue with this scorecard is the average amount of debt students typically graduate with according to the scorecard. $22,320 is a lot of money, undeniably. However, this does not cover even one years worth of tuition and extra fees at Wake Forest.
For students that do not recieve assistance from their parents or from the federal government, this statistic is frustrating.
Wake Forest does a poor job of offering financial assistanace to non-need based students in comparison to other schools. While there are merit based scholarships, they are sparce and do not cover the cost of tuition for all four years.
Although this is an issue for the students already struggling with Wake Forest debt, this becomes a deeper problem in deterring potential students from attending becasue of the lack of more merit-based scholarships. A school of students whose parents pay for their tuition is typically a homogenous one.
After attending the Young Invincibles conference, we agree that financial aid policy at Wake Forest is an issue that needs more attention.