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Financial aid will keep up with tuition, Casper assures parents

STANFORD -- Stanford will fully adjust its financial aid programs to help families keep up with next year's 5.5 percent tuition increase, President Gerhard Casper assured parents in Memorial Auditorium on Feb. 10.

The lively question-and-answer session was among several events that took place on campus Feb. 10-11 as part of 1995 Parents' Weekend, hosted by the Office of Development.

About 900 moms and dads - three-quarters of them parents of freshmen - attended the weekend, which also included campus tours, “classes without quizzes,” dormitory receptions and a program on undergraduate education featuring Ramón Saldívar, vice provost for undergraduate education, and Mary Edmonds, vice provost for student affairs.

In his informal address, Casper gave the parents an update on proposals by the Commission on Undergraduate Education to strengthen Stanford's academic requirements in foreign language, writing and science.

Regarding the possibility of a less-expensive three-year degree program, the president told parents that Stanford had decided not to push students to graduate early.

Among faculty, students and alumni, he said, the only group that showed much enthusiasm for the three-year option were “younger alumni who have teenage children on the way to college.”

The university would, however, “proceed by developing for applicants a clear set of options” showing them how to finish early, if they wished. As it is now, Casper said, about 20 percent of Stanford students already have enough credits to graduate by the end of their third year, “so there is some leeway.”

Regarding widely publicized efforts to toughen Stanford's grading policy, the president drew applause when he defended the high proportion of A's that Stanford students earn. “If we are highly selective,” he said, “then our students should be good.”

Casper did, however, criticize the ease with which students could retake courses under the old grading system, calling it a “waste of resources.” Even in his own seminar on constitutionalism, he noted, a couple of students had asked to retake the course - requests that he turned down.

Asked about student-teacher ratios in large courses, Casper recalled an incident in which a parent cornered him in Washington, D.C., to complain that his son, who had an A-plus grade point average, couldn't find five faculty members to write recommendations for him.

“Look at it from the son's point of view,” Casper said. “Many students prefer to go through Stanford as anonymously as possible. But it is very important that students seek out faculty . . . 1,400 faculty cannot seek out 14,000 students.

“Your kids are well advised to seek out small classes, and I urge you to discuss this with your children.”

Among other topics on the parents' minds were indirect costs, earthquake preparedness, advising and relatively low rates of satisfaction among Stanford alumni, as calculated by U.S. News and World Report.

On the last subject, Casper noted that the ranking was based on Stanford's relatively low annual fund participation rate - something quite distinct from alumni satisfaction with the Stanford undergraduate experience.

“Stanford has always been low key with alumni about their moral obligation to pay back the university,” he said, and “many alumni believe that a $100 gift is not important.”

Historically, he added, the Development Office has spent more time cultivating major gifts - a focus that he is working to change.



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