GW remains need-blind while others become need-aware

by Chelsea Radler

Media Credit: Allison Elfring

The University’s admissions process will remain need-blind despite an increase nationwide of colleges targeting students who can pay full tuition.

Nearly 21 percent of private doctoral universities that were surveyed conceded that a student’s ability to attend without financial aid became more important after the financial downturn, according to a September report by Inside Higher Ed.

Need-blind refers to a process where a student is considered by admissions officials regardless of his or her potential reliance on financial aid to cover the cost of attendance. Need-aware admissions – which give priority to applicants who can pay without financial aid – are on the rise nationally, according to the report.

“‘Fit’ is, from many colleges' point of view, increasingly about money,” when it comes to selecting students, the report read.

More than 86 percent of respondents to the Inside Higher Ed survey from private doctoral universities cited “rising concerns from families about tuition and affordability” as their most important admissions challenge.

“Providing adequate student aid for low- and middle-income students” is the most important undergraduate admissions strategy, 48 percent of private doctoral institutions told Inside Higher Ed.

Financial need still does not play a role in selecting applicants to the University, Associate Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Admissions Kathryn Napper said.

“We’re still looking for students who will fit in well here. We’re still need-blind,” Napper said.

Napper said she does not anticipate a time when the University or others in its market basket would consider financial need in the admissions process.

“It appears universities and colleges have a challenge in deciding if their institution can continue with a ‘need’ blind admission policy or has to move towards a policy of being ‘need aware,’ ” Associate Vice President for Financial Assistance Dan Small said in response to the report.

The University’s total financial aid pool including federal programs topped $400 million this year, Small said.

The admissions fee and tuition of the University may deter students from applying to GW despite its need-blind policy, a variable that cannot be measured, Napper said.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to lose applications from students who might find the cost not to their ability,” Napper said.

Reed, Carlton and Gettysburg colleges limited the number of students in need admitted in 2010, according to U.S. News and World Report.

While financial ability does not play a role, the University actively recruits veterans, athletes, international students and men as the gender gap in college attendance widens.

All private doctoral universities surveyed gave preference to minority students, and 95 percent gave favored admissions treatment to athletes, the survey showed.

“We’re still looking for a diverse campus,” Napper said. “A factor in admissions will be diversity. We can still do that. We still want to do that.”

This article was updated on Oct. 4, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly identified Kathryn Napper as executive dean for undergraduate admissions. Napper's correct title is associate vice president and dean for undergraduate admissions.

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