Colleges Face a Financial-Aid Crunch

This admissions cycle, families need more help than ever. But with budgets pinched, how much can colleges afford to offer? A look inside one school's calculus

Ben Stechschulte / Redux

Skidmore admissions officers and faculty pick winners of a grant for talented science and math students.

Bob Shorb, Skidmore College's fast-talking director of student aid and family finance, did more reading than usual this year. And not just because the 4,000 financial-aid applications that landed on his desk made up a record 62% of the applicant pool. Shorb, who has worked in financial aid for 30 years and is halfway through putting his three daughters through college, had also never seen so many personal appeals folded into the files. Setting aside his computer algorithms and thick-buttoned relic of a calculator, he absorbed every typewritten page. One family expected a 50% income drop; another planned to sell its...

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