Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How I close a college with one sentence in the newspaper

So yesterday I was quoted on the front page of the Boston Globe. "WOW, how excellent, you must be thrilled" you might say to me. Well, not really. I spent 10, 15 minutes speaking with this reporter on how colleges were going to handle the challenges the current economic situation will present for our families. His focus was primarily on entering students, were colleges changing their admissions policies to take financial stability into account, were we adjusting our financial aid awarding strategy in any way.

My responses were along the lines of clarifying that we practice need-blind admissions, i.e. we don't consider the financial circumstances of the family in the admissions process. They award merit aid based on, well, MERIT. In the financial aid office we did not plan on changing our awarding strategy at this time, we would award both new and returning students based on our current policies, however students who are being impacted by the current economic situation should approach our office to see if we can assist in any way. Yes, we do expect to see more appeals. We don't want anyone choosing not to attend our college based on financial concerns until they have had a conversation with my office. Do I expect to be able to help everyone? No. But that is not any different than any other year. Every year there are families who want more than we can give. This year the conversation is different because there is a heightened distinction for families between ability to pay and willingness to pay. They are considering, more than ever, the VALUE of everything they purchase, including a college education. But families who need a large amount of additional support from us probably will not get as much as they seek.

That last concept, that part about not being able to help everyone as much as they would like us to, THAT is what he quoted. All the good stuff that I talked about, how we are here to help, nope, not mentioned. Turns out his focus was not on how are colleges going to HELP their students make their educational hopes and dreams a reality, his focus, which he did not express AT ALL when we were speaking, was on how rich students with resources will have more options than those who need help. He sensationalized the whole thing.

My president called and was sympathetic and supportive, which I appreciate. He has been quoted out of context and misquoted a lot lately. He said the good news was I got our name on the front of the Globe, along with two prestigious institutions. So it at minimum looks like we are running in good company. There is no such thing as bad publicity, is that the saying?

Right. Except that it sure sounded like I said something like "Don't ask for help from your college, they can't help you."

You can read the article for yourself here


Audubon Ron said...

I feel your pain. I have been misquoted, quoted out of context, quoted when I didn’t say anything at all and quoted as living in a town I don’t even live anywhere near, they even got my wife’s name wrong. Good luck getting a retraction, that only complicates things. I make the local paper and the business journal often. I got to a point where I ask the reporter to send me the question and the context around it on email. Then I send an answer in writing. Guess what? I still get misquoted only this way I have a paper trail for my board. It truly has gotten to a point where I don’t believe 80% of what I read and only 50% of what I hear.

Dproudmama said...

So, one would think the GLOBE could be trusted? Papers need to sell right now more than ever. Reporters need to be noticed more than ever. Ergo: let's play with words. Points to the president for being sympathetic. Now for the IBS, ACTIVIA is great!