Students, faculty, and alumni gathered for a panel discussion on Nov. 15 called “Transparency, Admissions Policy, and Financial Aid.” The discussion focused on the University’s new need-aware admissions policy, which will go into effect with the Class of 2017.
Associate Professor of Government Elvin Lim, Chair of Science in Society Joseph Rouse, Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Long, Professor of Economics Gilbert Skillman, and Wesleyan alumnus Brian Glenn ’91 served as panelists.
Em Trambert ’14, Katie McConnell ’13, and Wesleyan Student Assembly President (WSA) Zachary Malter ’13 organized and moderated the panel. In her introduction, Trambert addressed the debate among students and the importance of placing it in a larger context.
In their opening remarks, the professors discussed the importance of diversity for the University, the need to raise the University’s endowment, and the consequences of the new need-aware policy for the student body.
“I think the principle here is the principle of relevant reasons,” Lim said. “To get to Wesleyan, the only relevant reason ought to be some conception of academic merit. The ability to pay is an irrelevant reason. I think everyone conceives that.”
Rouse addressed student concerns regarding the preservation of socio-economic diversity on campus.
“In the course of trying to preserve need-blind as a tool, Wesleyan has consistently over time decreased the financial aid packages it actually offers, and now it has become very clear that this has had a major negative impact on the diversity and the quality of access to the University,” Rouse said.
Long gave a presentation based on data collected on income inequality and University admissions in the United States, suggesting that a switch from a need-blind to a need-aware policy will only perpetuate a lack of socioeconomic diversity.
Skillman suggested that the University’s shift away from need-blind admissions was not as significant a change as some have said.
“The old policy could be described as partial need-blind admissions and full-need financial aid,” Skillman said. “So what we’ve changed to now is a somewhat more partial need-blind admission policy. Qualitatively nothing has changed, just the proportions.”
He further commented on the economic implications of the new need-aware admissions policy and the problems that might occur if the old policy is kept.
Glenn countered this idea by arguing that students should fight for the old policy on the basis that if the University turns to a need-aware policy now, it will never go back to fully need-blind admissions.
“The administration—I understand why—is not willing to make the tough decisions,” Glenn said in reference to certain budget cuts that the University has refused. “What does it do instead? It goes after the easy ones, which are picking on the weakest in society, especially those who haven’t even gotten here.”
At the end of the panel, students asked questions concerning the new need-aware policy. Those questions centered on topics of student body diversity, long-term financial stability for the University, and cutting nonessential spending. After the panel was done, students and panelists remained for another hour for more discussions.
“I thought it went really well,” Trambert wrote in an email to The Argus. “Students stayed after to talk with professors for about an hour after the panel ended, and all the professors seemed really pleased with how it went.”
Despite varied input from both the students and faculty, the new need-aware admissions policy will remain in effect for the prospective Class of 2017.