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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Despite difficult economy, Carleton admissions policies unchanged

<al Motors, Chrysler and other American companies like American Insurance Group have received billions of dollars in bailout money from the government to continue operating. Colleges and universities in the United States could also benefit from a boost in money. Many post-secondary institutions have experienced and continue to experience financial difficulties because of the continually worsening economy. Precipitous drops in the stock markets in the US have caused extreme decreases in college and university endowments that allow those schools to operate.

The changes in the financial health of the over 4000 schools in the United States have had a direct effect on the admissions process. On March 31, The New York Times printed an article which included interviews with admissions and financial aid officials from various colleges and universities in the US, including Carleton’s Rodney Oto, Associate Dean of Admissions and the Director of Student Financial Services. The publication of the New York Times article coincides with the annual period when seniors in high school are about to receive their admissions decisions or have already received their decisions. This is also the time when colleges are making admissions and financial-aid decisions. The New York Times article introduced the idea that many colleges might look more carefully at applicants’ financial backgrounds before admitting them because of the unpredictable economy. An unpredictable economy also causes the college or university’s funds to be iffy because of the investment of college dollars in the stock markets. Kate Zernike, the author of the article, wrote that “colleges are looking more favorably on wealthier applicants” because of the “fallen endowments and needier [current] students.”

One of the major differences between the admissions departments at various colleges and universities is the concepts of need-blind versus need-aware. According to Paul Thiboutot, Carleton’s Dean of Admissions, a need-blind institution “[admits] students without consideration of their financial resources,” while need-aware colleges and universities, like Carleton, “take into consideration … the financial resources of an applicant.” Due to the dangerous economic climate, many colleges that claim to be need-blind are actually becoming more interested in a potential student’s ability to pay the tuition. According to the Times article, many “colleges say they are more inclined to accept students who do not apply for aid, or whom they judge to be less needy based on other factors like zip code or parents’ background.” Colleges like Brandeis University and Middlebury College that consider themselves to be need-blind have moved towards admitting more international, wait-listed and transfer students because the institutions look at these applicants’ resources rather than being need-blind. A general increase in wealthy Early Decision (ED) applicants is also a sign of the weak economy. Early Decision applicants are required to attend the school they are accepted to and therefore, as stated by the Times, these “students give up the ability to negotiate financial aid, and tend to be wealthier.” The president of Williams College, Morton Owen Schapiro, said, “There’s going to be a cascading of talented lower-income kids down the social hierarchy of American higher education, and some cascading up of affluent kids.” The combination of a bad economy and weakened endowments have caught the eyes of admissions officers and college advisers who, as specified by the Times, “say richer parents are taking note of the climate” and are not applying for aid so “their children stand a better chance of getting in” to the schools of their choice.

Although many college admissions directors and financial aid directors see colleges becoming friendlier towards richer applicants, Thiboutot said in an e-mail that “the economic climate has not changed how [the admissions office works].” In fact, much of the information from Thiboutot suggests that Carleton is not facing the same admissions difficulties that other schools are facing. The admissions statistics for the 2013 class, provided by Thiboutot, show a lack of change in the Carleton admissions process. One of the changes the New York Times article noticed was the increase in ED, international, wait-list, and transfer students. The Early Decision admission rate at Carleton did increase by five percent this year, though this amount, according to Thiboutot, is “not higher than usual if defined as a 5-10 year look at ED numbers.” The New York Times article also showed a trend towards rejecting certain students due to their inability to pay for college. “Needier students will be shifted down to the less expensive and less prestigious institutions.” Thiboutot said in an interview that none of the rejected students were turned down solely because of their financial ability. He said that an applicant’s financial state is “not the only conclusion. [It is] never that reason by itself.” Even though Carleton is a need-aware school, it, according to Thiboutot, “does not mean that [Carleton does] not admit applicants because of their financial situation.”

Carleton’s financial aid budget for the next year has also seen a 6.6% increase. An increase in the financial aid budget, even at this time, has not been uncommon, according to the New York Times article. Even with this increase, Thiboutot does not promise anything for the future. The stock market, and how it will act in the future is very unpredictable. When asked if financial aid would become a burden to applicants in the future, Thiboutot said, “[the College is] attempting not to have that happen.” Many aspects in the usage of the financial aid budget such as greater expenditure on the incoming freshman class, more financial demand from returning students and other factors could change the financial security that Carleton has currently and could continue to have in the near future.

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