In an earlier thread and connected to our discussion a few days ago, HWC noted that

On “need-blind”: There is a bit of Alice in Wonderland used in the definitions of these words. What “need-blind” means is that the admissions office doesn’t know the precise amount of financial need for each student and, if necessary, there is the authority to increase the finanicial aid budget. However, make no mistake, the entire budget is predicated on knowing exactly the percentage of students who will pay full sticker price.

I hate to use Swarthmore’s numbers, but I know where to easily find them. Their percentage of full sticker price customers over the last five years has been 49%, 49%, 50%, 50%, 50%. Williams, I am quite certain, shows the same kind of “fortuitous” consistency, although Williams’ number is a somewhat higher percentage of full-fare customers. Wait…I found the Williams full-fare numbers for the last seven years: 59%, 58%, 60%, 61%, 59%, 58%, 58%.

Now, does anyone think this consistency happens by accident? It asks right on the application if the student will be applying for finanical aid. Nesbitt has stated in print that they look at parent education, parent jobs, and even zip codes. Of course, they are not “need-blind” in the true sense. They know how many full-fare kids they need and they get them, year after year after year, like clockwork. Any admissions director who misses his financial aid target is going to be looking for a job.

Amanda gave a very well written presentation of the “official” line on affirmative action. However, there is considerable Alice in Wonderland language associated with that topic, too. Schools are able to maintain the charade that it is not a quota-driven process only because they are unable to hit the desired quotas for Af-Am and Latino kids. For now, the operative quota is “as many as we can get”, so they can say, with a straight face, that there is no “firm” quota in place. I have no doubt that, should Af-Am enrollment ever hit 10% or 12% or whatever the number is within that range, Williams would stop paying Questbridge to find more. Alas, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. There were aggressive affirmative action schools that hit the 10% number 25 years ago, and have never been able to get back there. As more elite schools jumped on the affirmative action bandwagon, the competition for a very small pool of applicants became overwhelming. There just aren’t enough “prep school” URMs to go around.

Actually, I, for one, am ready to believe that “this consistency happens by accident.” Or, rather, that the law of large numbers works well in both theory and practice. That is, with thousands of applicants and hundreds of acceptances (and assuming a stable distribution of wealth and SAT scores — and the correlation thereof), it is completely plausible that Williams might always end up with 60% full-price students even though no one in Admissions is trying to hit that precise number.

But, as always, it would be nice to know what goes on behind the admissions door . . .

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