This article was originally published by the NYU Local and is re-posted here with permission.
Wesleyan University President Michael Roth officially laid out plans in May to end Wesleyan’s policy of need-blind admission. He announced the change in a blog post titled “Sustainable Affordability,” wherein President Roth presented a challenge: to keep Wesleyan affordable without compromising the quality of a Wesleyan education.
Roth’s concern was that the school’s then-current cost model – hiking student fees annually well above the rate of inflation, and then raising the financial aid budget – was both pricing out middle-class families (who make too much to qualify for scholarship but too little to manage an increasingly expensive tuition cost) and setting up a pattern that would not be sustainable. Increasing the school’s student fees 4.5% annually – as Roth said in his post that Wesleyan did from the past academic year to the present – would mean that Wesleyan’s cost of tuition would jump over $20,000 over the next 10 years from $45,358 in 2012-2013 to $67,406 in 2022-2023.
Roth, who has been Wesleyan’s president since 2007, proposed a three-pronged solution: to link Wesleyan’s tuition increases to the rate of inflation, to introduce a three-year degree option, and to revoke Wesleyan’s official label of a need-blind admission process. In his wording, Roth was careful to point out that Wesleyan already considers need in transfer and international student applications, and that the change would not affect most applications. President Roth seemed purposely vague when he outlined stipulations that Wesleyan “will read all applications without regard for the ability to pay, and we will be need-blind for as many students as possible. Currently we project this to be about 90% of each class (depending on the level of need).”
Need-blind admission is defined as a policy wherein a school does not consider an applicant’s financial profile while making his or her admissions decision. Who are the 10% that Roth is leaving out? Would they be the most needy – students who contribute greatly to the school’s socioeconomic diversity, as well as students who rely on financial aid the most – or students somewhere in the middle – students who might be able to pay for school with loans, but who are exactly the group that Roth is enacting this new need-aware policy in order to protect – or maybe the wealthiest students – students who would be given an prioritized position? Wesleyan accepts fewer than 20% of all applicants, and Roth projects that that percentage is shrinking, so to consider 10% of applicants differently from the rest makes a huge difference in the makeup of a class.