Need Blind Admission Does Not Exist

Need Blind Admission, Need Blind University Admission, Need Blind College Admission

Need blind admission is about as real as Santa Claus (photo credit: Douglas Rahden).

Recently, we wrote a piece about how need blind admission is a farce. This post led to a number of folks contacting us via phone, email, and in the Comments section. Many folks were angry (it should be noted that we don’t publish all Comments, that we reserve the right not to publish Comments  — especially when they contain factual inaccuracies or are just not particularly nice). It should be noted that we fully stand behind our statement — one we’ve been saying for years — that need blind admission is a total and absolute farce. While it’s a bit more complicated, like the great litigator David Boies (as depicted by Malcolm Gladwell in his latest bestseller), we believe in simplifying arguments to their core and that argument is this: If highly selective colleges really were need blind, then they could, in theory, admit a class of students in which the majority of students could not afford to pay tuition. If a college actually did this, that college would not be able to sustain itself. It would have to dip into its endowment. Tuition is vital to highly selective colleges. It’s why tuition fees are so high. Schools would never make this error. They take need into consideration, even though they say just the opposite.

Yes, colleges lie! We know, you’re shocked. Don’t be. Colleges are businesses and businesses demand money. But wait, we know what you’re thinking: But these colleges profess in their brochures and on their websites to not take need into consideration! It must be the case! Sorry, it just isn’t. In fact, there’s a piece on “NPR” entitled “When Money Trumps Need in College Admissions” that buttresses our point. Have a listen to it. As stated on “NPR” in quoting former Kenyon College president Georgia Nugent: “What most colleges today are, they are what is called ‘need sensitive.’ It means that many colleges who have some resources — not enormous resources, but they are not impoverished — they do try to accept the class they would like to have, not taking into consideration financial need. But then, as you get toward completing the acceptance of the class and your dollars are running out, you have to begin to take into consideration need.”

The piece goes on to say, quoting Georgia Nugent, former president of Kenyon College: “In some ways, I think it’s defensible. They’ve got institutions where their resource base is declining. They have to somehow find a way to pay their bills to offer the education they want to offer, and consequently, they need to increase that net revenue.” Are you starting to get the idea? Need blind admission sounds good and all, but it’s as true and real as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

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7 Comments

  • Grey Garvin says:

    What you’re saying makes sense on one level –truly, how they can be need-blind? What if they ended up taking 80% folks who can’t pay the tuition? But where I’m curious is where the % of people taking aid comes from. For example, Duke says that 52% of its accepted applicants received financial aid…which means (i’m thinking) that more than half of their admitted class checked the box before applying. And that almost implies that checking the box *bettered* the odds of getting in…..

    Now what i will accept is the waiting list….if you make it that far, then I’m surprised that 80%+ of those kids are probably admitted with no aid.

    • Bev Taylor says:

      You are right! The odds are indeed stacked against waitlisted candidates who need financial aid.

      • Brown and Cornell mom says:

        What we’re trying to point out is that Ivy schools need a certain percentage of financially aided kids, and you may as well compete with them for admission if you qualify.

  • Brown and Cornell mom says:

    I think you should continue to focus on the Ivy League …does this scenario truly dominate admissions to Ivy League schools?

    • Bev Taylor says:

      It does indeed. And we focus — and have always focused — on the admissions process at all highly selective colleges, which include the eight Ivy League colleges.

  • Beth Miles says:

    I believe ability to pay plays an even greater role in regular decision admission at selective schools that take a significant percentage of the class early decision. What are your thoughts?

    My daughter applied regular decision to a selective private university in the Midwest that took 45% of its class early decision. She was rejected even though she is a minority, 34 ACT, high g.p.a, overcame adversity (attended 3 different high schools due to family relocation but landed on her feet nicely), and is a talented athlete. The only thing she didn’t have going for her was that she is not a full pay. Her older sibling attends the same university, was admitted with similar stats – the difference is that she was full pay at the time. With the advent of two in college, our family became eligible for financial aid. Can’t believe my youngest would not have been admitted if we were able to pay full freight for both.

    Additionally, many of my daughter’s classmates that applied early decision were admitted with relatively the same stats. I am assuming because they applied ED that their families were paying close to full tuition.

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