It's the season of college acceptances, financial aid and gratitude

When Ken Spalding ’73 arrived at Bates in 1969, his dad had a good job in Connecticut as an aerospace engineer. That meant the family could afford Bates’ $3,100 comprehensive fee.

Then, midway through Ken’s first semester, his dad lost his job. But Ken didn’t lose out. “Bates really came through for me,” he recalls. “I received grants and loans, and I did campus work. The Bates philosophy was, ‘We have you here. We want you to stay here.'”

Images of the 2008 Mount David Society luncheon in the Jarnryd Room of the new dining Commons on April 3. Speakers were Elaine Tuttle Hansen and Kitty Friedman ‘95 as well as Oscar Cancio ‘08, Nicole Svirsky ‘09, who spoke about their experiences. The event provided stewardship to donors to financial aid.

Spalding had reason to reminisce after attending the Mount David Society Scholarship Luncheon on April 3, where supporters of Bates financial aid met current students who benefit from their generosity.

Currently, about 37 percent of Bates students receive more than $20 million in scholarship grant aid. A few of them spoke at the April luncheon, held in the Jarnryd Room of the new dining Commons on the day of the annual Mount David Summit.

“It makes it gratifying to give and compelling to give more.”Rising from her seat, Nicole Svirsky ’09 of Newburyport, Mass., talked about her senior thesis combining political economy and law. She examined the transnational barriers that inhibit effective child-labor policies, scrutinizing ideological differences between the International Labour Organization and the World Trade Organization and doing comparative case studies of Pakistan and Brazil.

At Bates, “I have learned and matured as a person and a scholar,” she concluded. “I have made friends here that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. The Bates community is fantastic, and we are all fortunate to be a part of it.”

Another speaker, Oscar Cancio ’08 of Los Angeles, talked about his unlikely hockey career at Bates as a metaphor for opportunity.

“That’s what gets to me,” says Spalding, the Maine woods project coordinator for RESTORE: The North Woods, a conservation organization. “Given the opportunity to attend Bates, these students have accomplished so much, and they appreciate the support they’ve been given. It makes it gratifying to give and compelling to give more.”

As some Bates students (and alums) look back on their experience, members of a younger cohort — high school seniors — are now deciding where they’ll attend college. About half of all incoming Bates students typically apply to six or more schools, and April is when students compare the colleges that accept them.

Financial aid is part of the comparison.

“After acceptance letters go out, it takes about a week before we hear questions from families,” says Wendy Glass, director of Student Financial Services. “They spend time looking carefully at all of the offers they’ve received from colleges. They are being cautious and realistic about this financial commitment.”

When families do start asking questions, an increasingly common one reflects the current U.S. recession. “Families are concerned about moving forward, about what they can expect if their circumstances change,” says Glass.

Do you have questions about the Bates financial aid program? Contact the Office of Student Financial Services.

The answer hasn’t changed much since Ken Spalding was a student. Bates still meets the demonstrated need of all matriculated students, for better or worse.

“We will strive to make decisions that are consistent and equitable from one year to the next.””Paying for a Bates education is a collaborative effort among parents, students, and Bates,” Glass explains. (That hasn’t changed, either: as a student, Spalding worked two summer jobs at 70-plus hours at week.) “When parents ask about the future, we try to paint a realistic picture of how an aid package might change if circumstances change. We reassure families that we will strive to make decisions that are consistent and equitable from one year to the next.”

Glass and her staff field many concerns and outright complaints, but she makes sure not to forget the happy words from families just beginning their Bates relationship.

It might be just a handwritten note added to a financial form: “Our daughter is absolutely thrilled to be coming to Bates. We are committed to doing what we can to make this happen, and we deeply appreciate the aid you’ve provided to our family.”

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