Participants in EphBlogs wildly successful [wildly? — ed. I call ’em like I see ’em.] experiment in creating a cross generational community of learning will recall that we spent a day discussing financial aid. Thanks to a pointer from Mike McPherson, we can now monitor the next generation of collusion attempts at the 568 Presidents’ Group. Any EphBlog readers in the Hartford area today should drop by the airport for “a training workshop meeting for the financial aid staff of all 568 member institutions.” The agenda features lots of good stuff.

Alas, we have already missed 5 hours with Jim Briggs, the foremost expert in educating financial aid staff about how to get as much money as possible from fairly evaluate the financial situation of self-employed parents.

“He’s the guru,” says Heather McDonnell, financial-aid director at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. “We all schlepp up there once a year and he tells us what to look for. He makes it clear that when you walk into the world of the self-employed, basically there are a lot of people who present themselves in ways that are not exactly a reflection of their true cash-flow position.”

And — surprise, surprise — the colleges want to better understand how much money you have so that they can better determine how much money you can afford to give them.

As always, its a free country. If Williams wants to offer Jane a financial aid package of X dollars while Amherst offers her Y dollars, that’s fine. Different schools are free to measure financial need however they see fit. Reasonable people might differ about whether or not families should be “expected” to take out second mortages to send their children to Williams.

But, alas, Williams and Amherst are not permitted to collude on the amount that they offer Jane. Now, EphBlog takes no position on the usefulness and/or constitutionality of anti-trust laws, but the law is the law.

Collusion, of course, is occasionally in the eye of the beholder. Consider an item in the schedule for this morning.

8:30-10:45 – Divorced /Separated Parent training, methodology and case studies; probably with a side-by-side comparison of the 568 methodology and the new CSS methodology

This is, perhaps, perfectly innocent. Financial aid offers, like any set of professional, like to get together for conferences, talk about what they do and try to learn to do it better. But the fact that they won’t release their main manual to outsiders makes me deeply suspicious. The manual that they make public is frightening enough. If the 568 process just happens to result in every elite college offering accepted applicants the exact same aid package, then we will be back to the bad old days of the Overlap Group.

By the way, are you surprised to know that the chairman of the group is our very own Morton O. Schapiro?

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