As our loyal readers may know, we were recently very impressed with an article penned by Paul Tough in The New York Times Magazine. The piece, entitled “What College Admissions Offices Really Want,” has our early vote for the most insightful and well written piece about college admissions of the year — a year in which hundreds upon hundreds of articles have been authored on the subject because of a certain scandal. And while we’ve already highlighted one point in the article that deserved further attention, today, we figured we’d highlight another powerful point.
Elite Colleges Covet Low-Income Students But They Need Full-Pays, Too
In his piece, Tough so articulately writes, “Over the last decade, two distinct conversations about college admissions and class have been taking place in the United States. The first one has been conducted in public, at College Board summits and White House conferences and meetings of philanthropists and nonprofit leaders. The premise of this conversation is that inequity in higher education is mostly a demand-side problem: Poor kids are making regrettable miscalculations as they apply to college. Selective colleges would love to admit more low-income students — if only they could find enough highly qualified ones who could meet their academic standards.”
And then, the eloquent Tough drops the mic: “The second conversation is the one that has been going on among the professionals who labor behind the scenes in admissions offices — or ‘enrollment management’ offices, as they are now more commonly known. This conversation, held more often in private, starts from the premise that the biggest barriers to opportunity for low-income students in higher education are on the supply side — in the universities themselves, and specifically in the admissions office. Enrollment managers know there is no shortage of deserving low-income students applying to good colleges. They know this because they regularly reject them — not because they don’t want to admit these students, but because they can’t afford to.”
Need-Blind Admissions Has Always Been a Lie
Paul Tough is spot on. The fact is, our nation’s elite colleges do covet low-income students deserving of admission. But in order to admit them, our nation’s elite colleges need tuition dollars — to subsidize the educations of students who depend on financial aid. So, as we’ve long pointed out, when our nation’s elite colleges profess to be need-blind, know that they’re not truly need-blind. They never were. Need-blind admissions is an outright lie, one perpetuated by admissions officers themselves. Colleges, in actuality, are need-aware. Because if they weren’t need-aware, they wouldn’t be able to balance the students who need financial aid with the students who cover the costs of those who need aid. No college — not even Harvard with the largest university endowment in all the world — admits incoming classes in which just about everyone needs financial aid. That, in itself, says everything.
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