February 16, 2020

JONES | No More Loans, Start Giving Summer and Winter Students Real Aid

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Last summer, I attempted to enroll in two classes that were offered only during the summer session. As soon as I enrolled, my bursar bill was adjusted to accommodate the summer tuition, a staggering $10,220 for my seven credits worth of coursework, or $1460 per credit.

Immediately, I went to the Office of Financial Aid, but I was met only with an application form for “financial aid” in the form of loans; Cornell doesn’t offer non-loan based aid for summer and winter courses.

It gets worse, though. The form comes with multiple strings attached, such as a minimum requirement of six summer credits to even be eligible to apply for loans as well as the need to have all bursar balances cleared before applying for aid.

I met with my advising dean afterwards; he mentioned that I was eligible for the LSC scholarship that covers the full summer tuition, but that it was too late for me to apply. Needless to say, I dropped the classes and changed my summer plans — since $10,000 for summer courses was ridiculous, even if I didn’t have to pay for it all right now.

While the LSC scholarship does provide full coverage of tuition, it is flawed and corrupted by strings as well. The scholarship, from what my dean told me and from my own experience, is highly competitive and not easy  to obtain. Upperclassmen who need to fulfill requirements for graduation in four years are heavily prioritized. Moreover, the scholarship is not granted for academic acceleration or to non-recipients of Cornell grant aid during the school year.

Since the incident during the summer, I have contemplated taking an online course this past winter to ease my course schedule during the spring — else I would be over hours this semester. Therefore, I applied for the LSC scholarship by the deadline, requiring me to visit my faculty advisors for each of my majors and complete my applications to graduate; it is certainly a stressful process. Ultimately, despite all this, I was denied. Thus, like my decision last summer, I chose to forego gathering $5840 for one four-credit course, an impossibility for me.

Beside the LSC scholarship, the only alternative to receive non-loan aid is through the Pell Grant, i.e. federal aid, but this is contingent on receiving the grant during the school year, again impossible for many students.

This is absurd. Cornell’s grandiose tuition for summer/winter courses is, at best, an inconvenience for some students. At worst, financial aid recipients like me won’t be able to swing it. Furthermore, the need to have six credits minimum to be eligible for loans during the summer means students must be willing to pay at least $8760 in loans, or come out of pocket up front for any amount less.

Such a lack of aid options is simply unacceptable. The very existence of the LSC scholarship means students must face an “all or nothing” situation, a huge risk since the recipients and non-recipients of the scholarship are notified of their acceptance or rejection in late fall or spring.

What’s silly about this is that it is unreflective of Cornell’s proud statement to meet all financial aid for students during the school year. Cornell utilizes several scholarships provided by generous alumni in order to meet demonstrated financial need for students. Why can’t the University use some of these scholarships during the summer and winter sessions?

What’s most surprising about Cornell’s lack of summer and winter aid options, though, is that other prestigious universities have and encourage students to apply for non-loan based aid. Yale University, for example, offers its eligible students up to half tuition on up to two course credits. While not a huge source of funding, this can be a decision maker for students from low-income backgrounds taking only three or four credits.

Even schools with less endowment provide better options. Brown University, for instance, offers students a Brown “Summer Grant.” The amount of this grant depends on how much in scholarships is received during the school year and how many summer courses the student is taking.   

Cornell, with its exorbitant tuition cost during the school year, is difficult enough to attend for many students. Why must we be further challenged for wanting to take classes on campus during the summer or online classes during the winter? Mitigating the financial barrier with more aid options during the summer and winter sessions would increase the diversity of academic courses available to students and continue to maintain Cornell’s reputation as one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Nile Jones is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Rivers of Consciousness runs every other Monday this semester.