One of the interesting subtleties in end of need-blind admissions for international students is the timing. When will/did the policy change? According to the (reliable?) Chronicle of Higher Education:

Williams College must alter its need-blind admissions process for international students beginning this fall because of the college’s “changed financial situation,” said its interim president, Bill Wagner, in a letter released yesterday.

Sensible enough. Students applying in the fall of 2010 (i.e., for the class of 2015) are subject to the new policy, just as the new loan requirements apply to them as well. The Record, however, has a more accurate description.

On Tuesday, Interim President Wagner sent out an all-campus e-mail announcing that the College will be moving to a need-aware admission policy for the Class of 2014’s international applicants.

The policy change actually applies to students who sent in their applications last December! Isn’t that sort of sleazy? The College told international students two months ago: “Apply to Williams! We won’t consider your financial need!” Applicants made decisions, both about where to apply and where not to apply, based on those promises. And now, with no warning, the College changes its mind. “Whoops! Sorry! We realize that we promised you something in December, but tough luck.” Record reporter Katy Gathright should have sought quotes from Nesbitt, Just, et al on this point.

Also, look closely at Wagner’s letter:

This will also be true as we begin to admit international students somewhat differently than we have in recent years, beginning with the class entering this fall.

But Williams has already admitted, as part of early decision, some international students for the class of 2014. We admitted them in December, including two students from Daewon. Were they admitted need-blind or need-aware?

Of course, this is not a major aspect of the larger debate. But details are important. It was unfair of the College to change its policy after applicants had already applied. We ought to hold off on any changes until the class of 2015. Would anyone disagree?

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