Vassar, led by former Williams provost Cappy Hill ’75, is going need-blind on admissions.

Ten years ago, Vassar College began factoring financial need into some admissions decisions, a move necessitated by ballooning aid costs that similarly affected the policies at other institutions. Last week, reflecting a growing concern over the accessibility of higher education as well as more favorable economic conditions, Vassar announced that it would buck the trend and return to completely need-blind admissions for first-year freshmen.

“We were really seeing it — along with other schools — as a way of getting the message out that these kinds of schools are affordable for families given our financial aid policies, and your financial need won’t hurt you in the admissions process, and that’s the message we wanted to get out,” said Catharine B. Hill, who became the president a year ago after serving as the provost of Williams College, one of the relatively few liberal arts colleges — now including Vassar — that have both need-blind admissions and pledges to meet full need.

Yeah, yeah. I see this as more public relations/make the faculty and other stakeholders happy.

[Former Williams professor] Michael S. McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation and an expert on financial aid issues, taught Hill when he was an economics professor at Williams and she was an undergraduate. He said that the trend for most colleges has been in the opposite direction — away from need-blind admissions — similar to Vassar’s move 10 years ago. The exception is among top-tier institutions, which have been taking various measures to make themselves more accessible to students from lower-income backgrounds.

“I would not expect this to be a dramatic change in who gets admitted,” McPherson said. “If you’re close, it’s really nice to be able to make a simple statement, so you don’t have to send an ambiguous message…. If you’re near to being able to do it, it’s great to just go ahead and do it.”

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