Editorial: Amherst Makes Right Decision in Keeping No-Loans Policy
By The Executive Board
Last week, Williams College became the first college to reinstate student loans in an attempt to further cut their budget. With this news, some feared that the College would renege on the Trustees’ earlier decision to maintain the no-loans policy and follow Williams’ footsteps. Given the College’s current financial position and previous emphasis on its essential beliefs, the Trustees’ decision should be applauded as a reinforcement of our core values.

While the faculty overwhelmingly voted in its December meeting to reinstitute loans as soon as possible, we believe that the no-loans policy is something that is vital to our make-up as a community, and to our appeal as a college destination. Obviously, a no-loans policy draws people of all economic means to apply and go to our school. This allows for many lower and middle-class families that wouldn’t otherwise consider an expensive private school like Amherst to look at it seriously; financially, Amherst is elevated in their eyes. The socioeconomic diversity that results from this policy enhances the Amherst experience. Diversity is not the only beneficiary of the no-loans policy, however. The fact that Amherst graduates students without any debt is something admirable and something that allows students to worry far less about money than if they had gotten loan-based financial aid. This freedom from worry liberates students and their families and lets them take on life after Amherst without the worry of burdensome debt. In this recession especially, the fact that most Amherst students are not restricted by debt (school-administered at least) is a testament to why Amherst is unique.

First and foremost, the College should not allow Williams’ decisions to affect ours, as our commitment to affordability, diversity and accessibility should not hinge upon the decisions of our rival or other colleges. Had the College reinstated loans immediately after Williams, it would appear that they had only been waiting for another school to take the initial publicity blow, rendering our repeated dedication to our core values meaningless and demonstrating the College places its reputation above its actual substance. Even though waiting to reinstitute loans after another school does so would be politically most astute, leaving the no-loan policy while others get rid of it would be even more beneficial public relations-wise. In addition, social and community benefits would remain. Williams’ actions shouldn’t govern our actions. If it is necessary that we do something controversial, such as getting rid of the no-loan policy, we shouldn’t avoid doing it because we’re worried about being the first to take the action. When it comes to life-changing decisions, such as those that deal with finances, whatever is necessary to provide a student with the best education and experience at Amherst should be done, regardless of whether the public will receive it well. Luckily, the College has decided to take this stance as well.

As College president Tony Marx reassured the College last week, “The Trustees made their decision based on the merits [of the no-loans policy] and the Williams’ announcement has not changed their view that no-loans has helped us enroll more middle income and great students, and reduced the constraint on career choices that debt can impose. As long as no-loans has these positive outcomes, can be afforded within our budget and its cost does not threaten the quality of education or other aid programs, it seems worth maintaining.” We commend this sentiment by the administration and we encourage them to continue to take an independent course of action regarding college policies in the future.

Issue 14, Submitted 2010-02-10 01:38:37