Need-Blind Admissions Was Always A Lie
Are the elite universities in the 568 Presidents Group operating as a cartel, colluding to price fix financial aid offers in the college admissions process? We happen to think so and so too does Peter Coy, a New York Times opinion writer out with a fantastic op-ed this week. In his piece, entitled “How Much Deference Do Elite U.S. Colleges Deserve?,” Coy details how this group of schools came to join this consortium, why it was formed, how it’s been operating through the years, and how the class action lawsuit filed last week against the 16 elite universities is rather, well, damning for the defendants. We happen to agree. And remember, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, an organization to which we’re a member, had to change its bylaws a couple of years ago for essentially being accused by our Department of Justice of violating our free markets by restraining trade. So it’s not like the field of higher education is immune to being punished for violating federal antitrust law. Heck, we’ve been calling out the lowly Independent Educational Consultants Association, a despicable organization we are proudly not members of, for many years for — we argue — brazenly violating federal antitrust law by attempting to restrain trade. So, yes, we found ourselves rooting on Mr. Coy as he detailed just how these so-called “need-blind” colleges — and we’ve argued that need-blind admissions is a lie for many years — have allegedly been colluding to price fix financial aid offers.
As Mr. Coy so eloquently writes, “The class-action lawsuit filed on Sunday argues that the 568 Presidents Group, which the suit calls a “cartel,” broke the law because some of the schools in the group, some of the time, were not fully need-blind in their admissions decisions. For example — brace yourself for a shock — the children of extremely wealthy families might have gotten a bit of an edge. The lawsuit quotes E. Gordon Gee, a former chancellor of Vanderbilt University and a former president of Brown University, both of which are named in the suit, who said that any school president under the influence of ‘truth serum’ would concede that donor connections make a difference in admissions. Columbia University, also named in the suit, openly states that admissions to its School of General Studies, although not to its other undergraduate units, are not need-blind. In addition to Columbia, Vanderbilt and Brown, the defendants are the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, M. I.T, Northwestern, Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice and Yale. Each has been a member of the 568 Presidents Group all or part of the time since 2003.”
Hear! Hear! Well said, Mr. Coy. Schools that ask applicants on the very application that admissions officers can see with their own two eyes if they need financial aid are not truly need-blind. Schools that openly state they’re not need-blind for international applicants are not truly need-blind. Schools that offer preferential treatment to the progeny of major donors are not truly need-blind. Schools that carve out certain schools within the university as need-aware are not truly need-blind. Schools that take the ability to pay of waitlisted candidates into account are not truly need-blind. Need-blind admissions is, in fact, a bald-faced lie and it’s about time these schools are held to account for being dishonest about their consideration of financial need in admissions decision-making.
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