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The Carletonian

Student-led forum discusses diversity at Carleton

<rleton bubble has become increasingly padded with cash. That was the account Jacob Schak ’09 and Ryan McLaughlin ’08 described Monday night during their presentation on Carleton’s steady decline in socioeconomic diversity. The presentation was a part of “The (Lack of) Diversity at Carleton,” a “town hall-style forum” that was hosted by Brandon Walker ’09 in the Great Hall. While Walker hosted the forum, it was primarily focused on arguments presented by Schak and McLaughlin and the duo of Ben Barclay ’09 and Jinai Bharucha ’11. Barclay and Bharucha represented the views of the CSA Budget Committee for the forum. The forum discussed how Carleton has become increasingly closed off to families with lower income levels and ways to correct the problem.

The meeting began with Schak’s presentation of charts dealing with the increased affluence of the student body. The forum was largely organized as a reaction to McLaughlin and Schak’s editorials in The Carletonian questioning whether the College is committed to economic diversity. Schak has also been posting statistics relating to the state of the national economy in the Noon News Bulletin. He began by showing that over half of the students in the Class of 2012 come from families with incomes over $200,000. Only 12 percent of the Class of 2012 students came from families with incomes of less than $50,000. The median annual household income in the U.S. was $50,233 in 2007. Other statistics that Schak brought up involved how Carleton’s student body has changed over the past few decades. One example was that less than 50 percent of the Class of 2012 received financial aid packages in comparison to over 60 percent of the freshman class from five years ago. The number of students on financial aid has been steadily declining since 1994 despite the fact that tuition has increased at a rate much higher than that of inflation. He attributed the rising affluence to the fact that Carleton has not had a completely need-blind financial aid policy since 1994. Schak also pointed out that the average student on financial aid still pays more for school than a student paying full tuition in the 1970’s when adjusted for 2009 inflation. McLaughlin followed Schak with a non-numerical view of their opinions that summarized the ideas expressed within their Carletonian articles while also discussing how it hurts the abilities of all students to function in the world by presenting a narrower view of the society.

In their articles, McLaughlin and Schak criticized the school’s decision to give small raises to staff and faculty after a year in which the College’s endowment lost 20 percent of its value. They believed that Carleton should be committed to giving more financial aid to students over hiring more faculty members. The President and Senior Administration must take pay cuts, Schak and McLaughlin also said.

Ben Barclay ’09 and Jinai Bharucha ’11 offered a rebuttal to McLaughlin and Schak. Barclay and Bharucha agreed that the College needed to step up its efforts to improve the socioeconomic diversity but felt that some of their article’s proposals are economically infeasible. While Carleton often compares itself to other elite liberal arts colleges like Pomona and Swarthmore, Carleton has an endowment that is less than half of most of the other liberal arts schools that top the rankings. Bharucha and Barclay attributed this fact to the reason that Carleton’s socioeconomic diversity is lower than other elite liberal arts colleges. To counter Schak’s argument over the lack of a need-blind financial aid policy, they explained that at least, the most qualified 85% of admitted students are admitted without their financial needs being considered. Only when the College’s financial aid funds are running low are applicants accepted on a need-sensitive basis. Only 2% of the Class of 2012 was accepted need-sensitive but 6-7% of the Class of 2013 will be accepted in this manner. Barclay and Bharucha said that a key reason for the lack of socioeconomic diversity was due to the fact that substantially fewer low-income students apply.

“It’s a matter of who’s applying to Carleton and who they’re attracting…It’s generally the sticker price.” Bharucha said

All four of the presenters agreed that there was a stigma involved with Carleton’s tuition price circling $50,000 that deters many students not from affluent backgrounds. Bharucha and Barclay’s presentation pointed out that there definitely have been signs of the increasing affluence of the student body.

The current financial crisis was mentioned throughout the forum. Some of the students in the audience were critical of the high salaries of President Oden and other senior administrators. Oden and the senior administration are not taking any pay cuts but have donated significantly to the College’s alumni annual fund. Bharucha and Barclay agreed with Schak and McLaughlin that Oden should take responsibility for the decline of the college’s endowment and take greater financial cuts than the faculty. Barclay and Bharucha also discussed how the college’s resources will be further stretched in the coming years in order to not reduce the budget for financial aid. They told the audience that staff will be reduced by 10% while increasing the number of student s living on campus during an academic term from 1800 to 1840.

The audience at the forum also asked questions about faculty pay raises, the hiring of faculty, and how it relates to that at “East Coast” liberal arts colleges.

If you have any questions about the forum or the issues involving socioeconomic diversity at Carleton, please contact Jinai Bharucha at [email protected] or Jacob Schak at [email protected].

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