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Need Blind at Vassar

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.”

More on this topic here.

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#1 Comment By Paul On July 9, 2007 @ 9:26 pm

Why are you so bloody cynical?

#2 Comment By [space] On July 9, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

Its fun?

#3 Comment By David On July 10, 2007 @ 7:37 am

I am “cynical” because I am educated on this topic. Are you? Start by reading the link I provide. Other commentary here. If Mike McPherson says this won’t make much of a change in who gets admitted, then you would be foolish to bet against him. And, if it doesn’t much change who gets admitted, then the purpose is pretty clearly more public relations and/or affirmation of community values.

Actually, this is the non-cynical interpretation! The cynical one is much darker, but I leave that as an exercise for the reader.

#4 Comment By M. Esa Seegulam ’06 On July 12, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

I wonder whether this includes international students. Because to say Vassar is joining Williams in the field of financial aid would not be completely true if they’re need blind only to US citizens and permanent residents. Williams, after all, is need blind. Period. I am guessing that Vassar is need blind; asterisk.