Ability to Pay and Admission

Need Blind and Admission, Need Aware and Admission, Need Blind Policy

An international applicant’s ability to pay is always considered in highly selective college admissions, no matter what the school policies may stipulate.

There’s an editorial in “The Dartmouth” by Meghan Hassett entitled “Needlessly Changing Policy” that we thought we’d discuss with our readers. The piece focuses on Dartmouth’s decision to switch from need-blind for international applicants to need-aware. Hassett opposes Dartmouth’s decision to consider an international applicant’s ability to pay when deciding upon whether or not to offer the applicant admission. As Hassett writes, “With this new policy change, I fear a decrease in attendance of students from non-Western, less wealthy nations, limiting us to Western views of seeing the world, as well as international perspectives rooted in socioeconomic privilege. It is vital that college students be confronted with different viewpoints constantly — people you may otherwise never have met with opinions you may otherwise never have heard or considered.”

But Hassett is wrong. The fact is that Dartmouth, or any highly selective college for that matter, is not now and has never been need-blind. Not for any applicants. Any certainly not for international applicants. No matter what their policy may stipulate. No college is truly need-blind. If a college were truly need-blind, they’d risk admitting an incoming class in which everyone needed aid. The school would have to significantly dip into their endowment and be in financial peril. And if colleges were truly need-blind, then why oh why can admissions officers read with their own two eyes if an applicant needs financial aid on the Common Application? Because no college is truly need-blind.

So while Hassett may be critical of Dartmouth, suggesting that this change in policy will lead to a less diverse incoming class for the College on the Hill, we strongly disagree. We applaud Dartmouth for being open and honest that they will consider an international applicant’s ability to pay when deciding upon whether or not to offer the candidate admission. The fact is, Dartmouth — and all highly selective colleges — have always considered this anyway. Especially for international applicants! Other colleges just aren’t open and honest about this. Dartmouth now is and a school should never be criticized for doing the right thing.

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