Alumni dissatisfied with housing scholarship

To the Editor:

The Following is an open letter to Lynnette E. Koch, Acting Director or Financial Aid.

I am writing to express my extreme dissatisfaction with changes to the Housing Grant or Room and Board Scholarship for the 2010–2011 year and to request that this policy be changed back to what it was for 2009–2010.

A few months ago my son (Class of 2012) asked about moving off campus (in order to spend less money on housing and help cover the inevitable tuition increase) for his junior year. I expressed concern about the loss of his Housing Grant/Room and Board Scholarship. We looked online and found to our relief that the Housing Grant/Room and Board Scholarship could still be applied to the meal plan even after a student moved off campus. Thus he started planning with his friends to move off campus for his junior year.

When he came home at Christmas my son told us that there was a new housing policy, that both freshmen and sophomores would be required to live on campus, and as a result there would be much less on campus housing available to juniors and seniors next year. After discussing this over the break we were glad he was interested in moving off campus. He and his friends found an apartment they liked (they started looking right when they returned, a wise choice, it seems, as the new housing plan prompted more students to get an early start in looking).

On Tuesday, my son notified us that he and his friends were ready to commit to the apartment they found, but one of his friends parents called the school and found out that the Housing Grant/Room and Board Scholarship would now not be usable for meal plans next year. My wife and I called the Financial Aid office and were told the same story. Now, my son is asking me what to do about next year.

I am very disappointed about this whole situation for the following reasons:

• This change has been handled very poorly. The policy change has a major impact on my son’s financial situation, but it has yet to be formally announced to the students or parents. Surely, it was obvious to the bright people at RPI that their change to housing policy (restricting junior and senior housing on campus) would result in upperclassmen looking sooner for other options, yet here we are past the special lotteries for Blitman Commons or Polytechnic Apartments and a few days away from the general lottery start. My son, his friends (and their parents), and I would not know about this change if we had not asked. Neither knowledge nor thoroughness seems to have been applied here.

• The change to the housing policy will surely drive more juniors and seniors off campus, and yet, you are making an aggravating coincidental change in taking away financial support from those students at the same time? How can a school that purports to “foster limitless opportunities for diverse disciplines—and people—to connect, intersect, and enrich one another in ways that benefit the larger world” lose sight of helping the very people they purport to serve—the students?

As an RPI graduate, I recognize the value of a Rensselaer education and am thankful for the opportunity my son has been given to experience RPI. However, even with my education and hard work, my son and I are not able to shrug off the loss of $5000 a year in aid. As one of three children I will have in college next year, he is working hard to earn his own way and minimize his dependence on my contributions, and this change has him very frustrated. I strongly urge you to restore the ability of off campus students to apply their Housing Grant/Room and Board Scholarship to the meal plan for the 2010–2011 school year.

John Laurentiev ’79

Kathleen M. Laurentiev