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Gilding the Ivy

February 13, 2001



On the theory that universities should care enough about their students to invest in them, Princeton plans to end the need for any of its students to take out big loans for its Ivy League education.

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This move, which will provide grants to make up for what students can't afford, is likely to push other schools with multi-billion-dollar endowments to follow suit. The nation's elite schools already are in a contest to recruit the smartest kids to their campuses. (See story on page 11.)

And what happens to financial aid for the other 99 percent of students who can't get into the best schools? They'll attend schools with lesser endowments and, for many, still need to pay back weighty student loans.

Princeton could have spent more of its $8 billion endowment on better faculty or more buildings. Instead, it's investing in students, which is admirable. The number of applications to Princeton predictably will increase.

What will take place now is a much-needed discussion among educators about merit and need-based aid. Should students be wholly free from working to pay for even part of their education? And should schools eager to be more generous in their aid in order to recruit top students now forget those a rung or two down the academic ladder?

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society