Senior Vice Provost Barbara Knuth announced at last week's Student Assembly meeting that the AFAWG rejected the option for need-aware transfer admissions.

Corinne Kenwood / Sun Staff Photographer

Senior Vice Provost Barbara Knuth announced at last week's Student Assembly meeting that the AFAWG rejected the option for need-aware transfer admissions.

May 9, 2017

Cornell Updates Financial Aid Loan Policy Seeking to Increase Fairness

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Cornell’s Admissions and Financial Aid Working Group — which was previously considering ending need-blind admissions for transfer students and other measures to save financial aid money — has decided to alter Cornell’s loan policy in order to more accurately reflect current U.S. income distributions, the University announced Tuesday.

The new policy, which will affect transfer and freshmen students entering in fall 2018, will increase the family income bracket for reduced loans from $60,000-$75,000 to $60,000-$85,000. The maximum annual loan amount for those affected by the change — students from families earning between $75,000 and $85,000 — will decrease from $5,000 to $2,500.

In addition, the policy will shift the $75,000-$120,000 family income bracket to $85,000-$135,000 and decrease the maximum annual loan from $7,500 to $5,000 for families with an annual income between $120,000 and $135,000.

The rest of the financial need will be met with grant aid, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth announced.

Families with less than $60,000 in annual income will continue to receive financial aid packages with grant aid in lieu of loans, and families with less than $60,000 in annual income and less than $100,000 in assets will continue to have no parent contributions.

“This change is important for Cornell, because it enables the university to continue enrolling a socio-economically diverse undergraduate population,” Knuth, who chaired the AFAWG, said in the Cornell Chronicle. “The policy change addresses the issue of fairness by rebalancing family income requirements that were originally established about a decade ago.”

These changes were approved by President Martha Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff. Kotlikoff had tasked the group with determining whether undergraduate financial aid was fairly distributed across socio-economic groups and whether aid resources should be redistributed, according to the University.

Although Knuth announced at last week’s Student Assembly meeting that the AFAWG rejected the option for need-aware transfer admissions, the University did not specify whether other proposed changes — which were previously leaked to The Sun — were also rejected.

According to leaked documents from the AFAWG that listed the proposed changes, some other cost savings measures could be implemented to cancel out the additional costs of changing maximum loan cut offs.

Knuth did not respond to a request for comment.

Other options in the documents included admitting more international students with no financial need to increase revenue or using “preferential packaging” to give certain students more grant aid in financial aid packages.

  • Paul G. Berry

    Let’s not forget that Knuth has repeatedly misinformed the Cornell community and acted in a manner completely inconsistent with the office of Dean of the Graduate School or Senior Vice Provost.

    Knuth has repeatedly — and almost certainly deliberately — made false or misleading claims about Workers’ Compensation to both the GPSA and the Cornell Sun. The Dean also violated numerous labor laws during our union election in March — actions that 32 ILR Faculty member also criticized in an unprecedented op-ed to the Sun recently. Then Knuth tied to ruin the career of an undergraduate student for sharing the financial aid documents mentioned in the article — and she did the even though there was never any written or spoke agreement to confidentiality.

    The Dean has also been extremely disrespectful to grad Rick Pampuro, who almost died in a laboratory accident in 2013, in email exchanges as recently as March 2017; accused me of “bordering on paranoia” (covered in the Cornell Sun) in response to my legitimate question about the ‘Ask a Dean’ series — which drew national attention for its special brand of misinformation and abuse of the graduate school listserv (and actually still continues).

    I’ve contacted the University Ombudsman, the Faculty Senate, Cornell’s HR Office, and President Pollack with clear evidence of all of these serious professional misconduct. And yet, as far as I know, no significant actions have been taken and Knuth continues to represent the University and make comments in the newspaper today about addressing “issues of fairness.” Such as statement is laughable from an individual who has committed so many flagrant abuses of power.

    Apparently there are no standards for professional decency or reasonable conduct in Cornell’s central administration and absolutely no accountability. It’s quite disappointing that HR and the President’s office are apparently unwilling to take any action at all against the “Dean” in spite of clear and repeated evidence of serious misconduct.

    If anyone, newspaper or otherwise, is interested in knowing more please feel free to contact me (email listed on

    Paul G. Berry, grad ’17

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