Rob Reddy, 43, Oberlin College
Tuition, room and board at Oberlin College cost $50,000 a year. And the cost to educate a student is way beyond that. Education is an expensive enterprise.
Folks are coming in and saying, "We've saved for a long time. We had a plan as an extended family for paying our portion of the child's education costs, and we've just been devastated by the decline in the markets or losses in savings. My son or daughter has been working for 18 years to attend college. How do we tell this kid who's done stellar work that because the economy tanked at the end of 2008, he can't pursue his educational dreams?" Some people cry. Some people are very angry.
Most of the appeals are pretty legitimate. It's pretty emotion-filled. And for the staff, that's a challenge to deal with on a day-in, day-out basis, when you hear of people losing jobs, losing homes. It takes its toll.
One family father worked in the financial sector, mother was a lawyer, and both were downsized. They said, "We never would have been an aid applicant. We understood that because of our means, this is something we would have to pay for." Now they have no income some savings, but that's dwindling and they're saying, "How do we not provide this education for our child?"
Many of us are concerned about families' making their decision about where their children should go to school solely on the basis of finances. Will some students end up at places that academically aren't the best for them? Campuses have cultures. Different students fit better into different environments. Do they enjoy being there? Sometimes paying a few thousand dollars now may result in a better outcome down the road. We want them to compare not just price tags but also what they get for the price. Driving a Saturn vs. driving a Mercedes for four years still gets you to the same place. Investing in education is a little different.
At Oberlin we have a tremendous commitment to financial aid. We had to cut other areas. The college is choosing not to have salary increases this year. But what happens if the markets drop by another 15% in the coming months? It's going to hurt our endowment and our families' ability to pay.