Undergraduate admissions and financial aid are being combined into one office under the leadership of admissions dean Jessica Marinaccio, administrators told Spectator on Tuesday.
Marinaccio, who has been dean of undergraduate admissions since 2004, is now the dean of admissions and financial aid for Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. A Columbia College statement said there will still be separate staffs responsible for admissions and financial aid, and that both of those staffs are being expanded.
The two offices are being combined as they move from the Division of Student Affairs to the purview of CC dean James Valentini and SEAS interim dean Donald Goldfarb. Valentini told Spectator in an email that after reviewing the operations of the two offices, he decided that “both would be better under a single and very effective leader, a leader who reports directly to me.”
“Whom we admit to the College is the most important thing we do. And financial aid is equally important when it comes to building a student body,” Valentini said. “The Dean of the College should take direct responsibility for our admissions and financial aid policies and their implementation.”
Even though admissions and financial aid will both be run by Marinaccio, “the process of making admissions decisions will remain entirely separate from the consideration of the financial aid needs of applicants,” according to the Columbia College statement.” The financial aid team will retain its facilities in Lerner Hall, and the admissions staff will remain in Hamilton Hall.
Marinaccio replaces former financial aid dean Laurie Schaffler, who left Columbia in May. Valentini said that Schaffler's input was critical in helping him decide to combine the two offices, and that she was “a strong proponent of that action.”
Marinaccio has worked in college admissions for nearly 20 years, starting at the University of Chicago and Boston University before coming to Columbia in 1999. But while her focus has been admissions, she said she has also gotten experience with financial aid by counseling students and families, working on financial aid outreach and marketing, and helping craft Columbia's expanded financial aid policies in 2008.
She's also personally familiar with the impact that financial aid can make. A generous aid package allowed her father, one of eight children whose parents couldn't work for most of his childhood, to attend college—something that changed “the direction of and the opportunities afforded to my entire family,” she said in an email.
“I consider it an honor to play a more direct role in giving the opportunity of a Columbia education to all who are the right fit for us regardless of socioeconomic background,” Marinaccio said.
With two staffs to run, Marinaccio will be forced to delegate. She said that some of her day-to-day admissions responsibilities will fall to senior staff members, and that Director of Financial Aid Kathryn Tuman will continue to be responsible for the financial aid staff's daily operations.
Valentini called Marinaccio a natural choice for the new job, saying that she has “a deep commitment to building the best College possible.” Goldfarb credited Marinaccio with helping SEAS attract more students and increase its selectivity during her tenure as dean of admissions.
“With her experience working closely with the Office of Financial Aid, Jessica brings a unique perspective to this new role and is eminently qualified to serve in this position,” Goldfarb said in the statement.