Update on Stanford GSB Financial Aid

December 7, 2017

Dear Stanford GSB Community,

I am writing to provide an update on Stanford GSB’s historical practice of awarding financial aid, what we have been learning over the last few weeks, the actions we are taking, and a few reflections.

In the past two weeks, you may have noted discussion in the media about our financial aid process. There also has been extensive and heartfelt discussion on our campus. I have heard from many students about their experience with financial aid, how it has enabled them to come to Stanford GSB, their disappointment with how the award process has been explained and communicated, and their questions and ideas about how best to distribute fellowships among students with demonstrated financial need.

We have historically embraced financial aid to ensure that Stanford GSB attracts high-potential leaders with financial need, and to build a richly diverse student community that brings a range of ideas and perspectives onto our campus. At Stanford GSB, a financial aid fellowship almost always represents a gift, in many cases a gift from a past student who loved the school and continues to love it, to a current student. These gifts are what enable students from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences to attend Stanford GSB.

It is vital that these fellowship awards are underpinned by a transparent and well-understood process that is forthright about how decisions are made and the principles that are used to make them. Here we fell short and we must do better.

The explanation for how we award aid has not lived up to the ideals our students and alumni expect of us, and I deeply regret it. When differences in fellowship awards across students are not made clear, it leaves students wondering why they received a particular award, and questioning whether the decision was equitable.

With these points in mind, I would like to share the actions we have planned to evolve our financial aid process. Our new Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Kirsten Moss, who joined Stanford GSB in June, will have a leadership role in several of these steps:

  • First, for this current award cycle, we will describe our awards clearly and accurately. Details for how we will allocate fellowships for this transitional year will appear soon on our financial aid web page, in our financial aid handbook, and in our communications with individual students.
  • Second, looking toward a long-term change and with the intention of understanding and learning from past experience, I have asked the University to arrange for an external review of our historical financial aid practices, including how Stanford GSB’s process evolved in relation to other schools.
  • Finally, starting in the New Year, we will begin a forward-looking effort to develop an improved financial aid process. We will develop a clear statement of Stanford GSB goals and objectives in allocating financial aid, and a clear description of and rationale for the process on which we settle. This initiative will require input and collaboration, from our students and alumni, from faculty and staff, and from experts in higher education and financial aid.

Alongside these immediate steps, you’ll be hearing more from Kirsten in the coming weeks and months and we would like to continue to hear more from you. We are firmly committed to ensuring that awarding financial aid enriches Stanford GSB by broadening our student community, and supporting and enabling our students with financial need. I am personally firmly committed to this goal.

We now have an opportunity to come together and address an important issue for Stanford GSB, and to make the school stronger for the future. I look forward to working with all of you in partnership.

Sincerely,
Jon Levin

Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean
Stanford Graduate School of Business