Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
I’m Dan Symonds and I want you to elect me as Swarthmore’s student Financial Policy Representative. As the economy craters and our college is forced to make budget modifications, I believe students are essential in ensuring that Swarthmore keeps sight of its educational and social mission. As longtime school finance nerd and student advisor to the Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid, I understand that affording the $51,870 yearly price tag is an issue that affects students and families in complex, often difficult ways. The intensity of last year’s financial aid discussion, the growing stacks of student aid applications, and the debates over staff benefits and future budgeting are just hints of how quickly things are changing at Swarthmore. We must face this difficult period with a creativity and courage that only students can command.
Though this position will grant me limited access to the workings of the college’s financial structure, I hope I can use it to spur wide discussion about where, how, and why Swarthmore spends its money. I want find out more about how the financial aid office assesses need, to track socioeconomic diversity in the student body, to understand the inner workings of our need-blind admissions policy, and to see how Swarthmore applies its ethical intelligence to investment decisions. In addition, I hope to uncover the reasons why there is no student representation on the Ad-Hoc Financial Planning Group, an administrative and board committee created in response to the economic crisis. The Ad-Hoc Committee makes recommendations on topics including salaries, admissions, and the rate of endowment spending. I trust that Swarthmore has equipped us with the tools to answer these questions in a fair and nuanced manner.
When applying to colleges in my senior year of high school, I was struck with Swarthmore’s longstanding commitment to rigorous academics and social justice. Our college’s financial aid program is the best among its peer institutions, and I look forward—with your help—in striving to make Swarthmore a national leader in the effort to make top-notch education a real possibility for students of every background. In dealing with matters that are not my exclusive responsibility, I intend to serve as a progressive voice to keep Swarthmore’s actions in line with its values. I care deeply about access to education, and hope to bring my knowledge and commitment to bear as student Financial Policy Representative.