Need-Blind Admissions Policies Become “Fuzzy” as Selective Colleges Seek Out Students Who Can Pay Full Tuition

Many of the nation’s most selective colleges and universities cling to an official position that their admissions procedures are “need blind.” But in a climate where budgets are tight, endowment funds are sharply down, and admissions have become even more competitive, some colleges are accepting more foreign and transfer students. Other schools are cherry-picking their wait lists for students who will pay full tuition. Some colleges may be cutting back on their commitment to enroll low-income students from such organizations as QuestBridge or the Posse Foundation.

Morton Owen Schapiro, president of Williams College who will soon leave to take over the presidency of Northwestern University, recently told The New York Times, “There’s going to be a cascading of talented lower-income kids down the social hierarchy of higher education, and some cascading up of affluent kids.”

And at the hundreds of colleges and universities where strict need-blind policies are not in place, admissions officers, in many cases, may choose a student who has the ability to pay full fare over an equally qualified applicant who will require financial aid.

This trend is bad news for blacks. The median African-American family income is 60 percent of the median income of white families. Blacks, on average, have one tenth the wealth of whites. Therefore, any reduction in need-blind admissions policies will have a disproportionate negative impact on black applicants to our nation’s most selective colleges and universities.