Why College Board's Institutional Methodology is Important: A Conversation with Kathy Blaisdell
Why College Board's Institutional Methodology is Important: A Conversation with Kathy BlaisdellCamelia Hanash, Director of Marketing, College Board
Each year, colleges and universities award billions of their own financial aid dollars to thousands of qualified students. Many of these institutions use Institutional Methodology (IM), the College Board’s need analysis system, to ensure that their financial aid funds are targeted to the most deserving students.
All Access had the opportunity to sit down with Kathy Blaisdell, Director of Student Financial Services at Mount Holyoke College and Chair of College Board’s Financial Aid Standards and Services Advisory Committee (FASSAC), to learn more about Institutional Methodology and what it means to institutions and families.
Q. What is College Board’s Institutional Methodology (IM) and why it is important?
Institutional Methodology allows financial aid administrators at colleges and universities to have an equitable approach to analyzing a family’s financial circumstances as we make a determination about how much aid the family may need. It is a series of mathematical calculations based on sound economic principles that takes family income and asset information and builds allowances against it. It is similar in some principles to the Federal Methodology, but it is quite different in terms of what kind of economic information it uses. IM is meant to look at a family's comprehensive financial situation to equitably make a determination of what we would expect a family could contribute. Families that have fewer resources are expected to contribute less, and so on. With IM, colleges can arrive at parent contributions based on the family’s full financial picture.
Q. What is the main reason college and universities use IM?
The biggest reason to use IM is that a large portion of need-based financial aid comes from institutional funds, and we want to do the best job of equitably distributing those funds. IM enables us to make finer distinctions about the most deserving students, and allows the institution to use its funds as equitably and effectively as possible. IM helps my institution, Mount Holyoke College, to achieve its mission to draw students from all backgrounds into an exceptionally diverse and inclusive learning community.
Q. Who developed IM and how?
It all started in the 1950s with financial aid practitioners putting the initial methodology together, and over time College Board has utilized economic experts and excellent researchers to help inform how IM might be transformed and adjusted. There has been active collaboration between the College Board and advisory groups of practitioners to continuously adjust and update IM ever since, so that it doesn’t become outdated. The oversight of IM now lives with FASSAC. Financial aid professionals who use IM also get together at the College Need Analysis Roundtable, and other professional workshops and conferences, to continuously find ways to improve IM. We diligently adjust IM’s algorithms and computational tables every year to reflect the reality of today’s students and families. Today, IM is a very living and breathing tool that financial aid practitioners and College Board researchers can be proud of.
Q. How do students benefit from IM?
Colleges and universities that use IM provide billions of dollars to families with financial need. Many of these students come from low-income backgrounds, but IM also allows colleges to help families in middle to upper-middle income ranges. Families with similar resources are asked to make similar contributions and families with different resources are asked to make appropriately different contributions. Giving students merit scholarships alone or using Federal Methodology only to award our institutional funds doesn’t give you the same level of confidence that you’re putting your resource where it does the most good. Therefore, with IM you are doing the best for your institution and you’re doing your best for your students at the same time.