Since its founding, Amherst has championed the idea of providing access to the college for talented students from all backgrounds. Today, Amherst’s financial aid program is regularly cited as one of the nation’s best, thanks in large part to the vision and commitment of Joe Paul Case, the college’s long-time Dean of Financial Aid.
On November 15, the Amherst community honored Case as he prepares to retire after 31 years of defining financial aid best practices and guiding principles for Amherst and, in many ways, for higher education institutions around the world. In a fitting tribute, Dean of Admission Tom Parker announced the creation of the Joe Paul Case Scholarship Fund, which was established by Charles Myers ’88.
Amherst signaled its modern-day leadership in this area by being one of the first U.S. colleges to adopt a need-blind admission policy where an applicant’s financial need is not considered as part of the application process, and every admitted student receives financial aid that meets demonstrated need. In 2008, the Board of Trustees voted to extend need-blind admission to international students.
Similarly, the college demonstrated its leadership in financial aid policies when in 1999, the college replaced loans for low-income students with grants. Again, Amherst extended one of its most generous practices in 2008, when it eliminated loans as part of the aid package for each and every student on financial aid.
When the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) honored him with a Meritorious Achievement Award in 2004, it noted that Case "has devoted more than 35 years of his career to developing and maintaining the principles of need-based aid. Through his work with the College Board, the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, and NASFAA, he is one of the principal architects of the current financial aid system. In addition to his participation in the financial aid conversation at the state and national levels, he continues to maintain daily contact with students. He believes that the opportunity to touch students' lives is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of the work he does."
A prolific writer on financial aid topics, Case is regarded as an expert on everything from the technical aspects of need analysis and the specifics on federal student aid legislation to the public perception of college endowments and the roles of government, colleges, and families in paying for higher education. In 2004, as part of the 50th anniversary of the College Scholarship Service (CSS), Case was chosen as a first recipient of the John Monro Memorial Award. The honor recognizes education leaders who have contributed to CSS and to the financial aid profession, particularly by recruiting talented, low-income and underrepresented students for higher education. One of the founders of CSS, John Monro was the long-time dean of Harvard College who crafted the basic principles of need analysis in the early 1950s. Case was also among the first inductees into the CSS’s 50th Anniversary Hall of Fame.
“Throughout his career, Joe Paul Case has advocated for students—not just on the Amherst campus but worldwide,” said President Biddy Martin. “His dedication to access has transformed higher education, as well as countless lives.”
Myers counts himself as one whose life was changed by Case. “I would not have made it through Amherst without Joe’s help, and I imagine many other alumni feel the same. His commitment to students over the years always impressed me,” said Myers. “I wanted to celebrate his legacy by creating the Joe Paul Case Scholarship Fund.” Myers hopes others will contribute to the endowed fund so that the scholarship support given in Case’s honor can be expanded.
A Commitment to Educational Access
The majority of Amherst students—55 percent—received need-based financial aid in the 2011-12 academic year. Amherst provided $41 million in scholarships and grants or 91 percent of the total aid offered to students.
Thanks to the generosity of Amherst alumni, parents and friends, the college has more than 400 endowed scholarship funds. Last year, these endowed funds provided 26.2 percent of the overall aid from Amherst and are guaranteed to provide scholarships to students in perpetuity.