Cohon’s transparency comforting

Similar to the new President of the United States, the president of Carnegie Mellon is being commended for his transparent leadership in regard to his detailed e-mail to the community about the impact the economy has had on Carnegie Mellon, the current state of the endowment, and his plans to engineer a more prosperous future.

With over a million American jobs lost in 2008, Cohon explained in his e-mail last week that the university aims to be as “creative and flexible as possible in providing alternatives” to job cuts so that Carnegie Mellon will be able to hold on to its valued staff members.

Although there will be salary freezes in the upcoming year, Cohon’s plan includes “a resumption of raises,” fiscal years 2011 and 2012. Cohon’s honesty about Carnegie Mellon’s current position and plan, and his optimism for the future, is refreshing to many.

Megan Larcom, an junior business major and chief of staff for the undergraduate student body, said, “Cohon’s candid e-mail shows how responsible he is in his decision-making process.”

Although current students and faculty may have been captivated by the president’s e-mail, what remains to be seen is how the economy affects prospective students.

American high school seniors have been applying to colleges in record numbers, and Cohon remarked that early decision applicants to Carnegie Mellon increased by 30 percent in the 2008–2009 year.

“I think the applicant pool might be affected next year,” Larcom predicted.

“Some people might be discouraged from applying to such an expensive school.”

Linda Anderson, Carnegie Mellon’s director of student aid, explained that the number of requests for reduced income appeals, which is a general indicator of extreme economic descent, has not gone up from the prospective class of 2012 applicants to the prospective class of 2013 applicants.

Anderson said, “Despite the media portrayal that most lenders have stopped lending private loans, part of our job is to educate parents and students about how to borrow successfully. We recommend banks for families to borrow from, and no data has indicated that there is an extreme economic impact affecting prospective students in terms of shifts in borrowing patterns.”

Currently, 48 percent of Carnegie Mellon students who apply for financial aid receive it.

However, Anderson projects that in the 2009–2010 year, about 5 percent more students, increasing the number to 53 percent, will qualify for financial assistance, and they will be accommodated.

“The university has made a dollar commitment to expand our budget for allocating financial aid and funding any increase in students who apply in the upcoming year,” said Anderson.

She explained that there is a standardized way to approach appeals, and if parents lose their jobs or get laid off due to the economic downturn, the students will not be penalized because of Cohon’s commitment.

By keeping the community aware and active in the process of how Carnegie Mellon plans to manage money in the future, Cohon strives to maintain “our institutional momentum while keeping focused on our mission to recruit and retain the best and brightest faculty and students and to maintain the highest quality education and research for which this university is known throughout the world.”

When asked about the future of Carnegie Mellon’s endowment and the potential reduction to financial aid, junior economics major Betty Castillo said, “I trust President Cohon. He’s got everything under control.”