University Business magazine featured an opinion piece written by President Joan Hinde Stewart in the Viewpoint section of its May issue. In “Becoming Need-Blind in an Environment of Need: How one institution has made it work,” Stewart discussed how Hamilton is ensuring access, “a deeply held principle at an institution where six of nine senior staff members were the first in their family to attend college.” She explained the College’s decisions to eliminate merit aid and to adopt a need-blind policy in admission, examples of Hamilton’s commitment to this principle as well as its willingness to make changes counter to current trends in higher education.
“Reducing tuition, eliminating loans, and becoming need-blind are generally attempts to address the same challenging question: What can be done to increase access to a college education? That’s a fundamentally important query, and it’s being answered by colleges in different and creative ways,” wrote Stewart. She continued by outlining Hamilton’s perspective and decisions.
“Eliminating merit aid meant more resources to support the admission of the most academically talented students and meet their full demonstrated financial need,” wrote Stewart. “Another criticism, that the academic profile of Hamilton’s entering class would suffer without merit scholarships, proved to be unfounded.
“Even our decision to keep loans as a part of students’ financial aid packages was made, paradoxically, to ensure access—because it enabled us to stretch limited financial aid dollars and was consistent with our belief that students should have a reasonable financial stake in their education.”
Stewart described the December 2009 session at which the trustees pledged moral and financial support for the need-blind initiative signaling “unambiguously the college’s commitment to access and opportunity. Adopting such a policy during extremely difficult economic times added to the excitement.”
Concluding with a personal reflection, Stewart wrote, “Access to a college education changed the trajectory of my life and with the commitment to such opportunity being demonstrated by colleges across the country, it promises to do the same for countless students in the future.”