October 24, 2001

Princeton's New Policies Attract More Minorities

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Princeton University’s aggressive admissions and financial aid procedures have helped the school make significant improvement in attracting minority and low-income students, a recent study reports.

A Sept. 17 press release from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education outlined the success of Princeton’s program, which includes the abolition of all student loans in all financial aid packages for this year’s incoming class. The loans will be replaced with grant aid.

According to the release, Princeton’s 112 African-American freshmen students represent 9.5 percent its 2005 graduating class, the highest percentage in 22 years. The number of black students who accepted offers of admission also rose from 47 to 66 percent this year.

Cornell’s administration, however, is suggesting that the University will not follow Princeton’s lead.

Thomas C. Keane, director of financial aid and student employment, has not seen the Journal’s report but does not expect a policy change at Cornell resulting from Princeton’s actions.

“I don’t think that [Princeton’s policy] is [affecting Cornell],” he said.

“We actually don’t have that many commonly admitted students between the two of us. In those cases, when students are admitted to Cornell and Princeton … they tend to go to Princeton.”

He added: “Since we don’t have that much real competition from Princeton, I don’t think our aid policies will change in reaction to theirs. We constantly review our financial aid policies to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our students and helping to create the wealth of diversity on our campus.”

Another factor in Cornell’s financial aid policies is its endowment, approximately $5 billion less than Princeton’s.

“We don’t have a prayer in the world, financially, to compete with

Princeton,” said Ronald G. Ehrenberg, the Irving M. Ives Professor of

Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics, in a Feb. 8 Sun article which first reported on Princeton’s new financial aid policy.

Keane also added that Princeton’s policy changes are not exclusive to minorities.

“The changes are not limited to any particular group of students, so I

would not characterize them as a ‘minority financial aid formula.’ Princeton has applied the policy change to all students,” he said. “In addition, the most recent changes they announced last spring semester [abolishing student loans] did not take effect until this fall and could not be the subject of any research report; they’re just too new.”

Additionally, Princeton’s student body is composed differently than Cornell’s, resulting in different financial aid measures.

“Princeton has described the reason for the policy change as needed to increase the numbers of students on their campus from low-income and minority student backgrounds, and I believe that,” Keane said. “The trend

on their campus, until they made the changes, was toward a whiter and wealthier student body.”

But Keane believes Cornell’s minority recruitment statistics are also successful. “A very quick review shows me that we have 2,465 students on our campus that come from a family income of less than $50,000,” he said.

In addition, according to a Cornell report released Oct. 15, 29 percent of

undergraduate U.S. citizens are minorities this year compared to 20 percent

in fall 1988.

African-Americans make up only 5.2 percent of the Class of 2005, the data also shows.

Cornell’s report further stated, “We are not making progress with first-time freshmen enrollment of underrepresented students.”

A key element of future plans is to “enhance the diversity of the undergraduate student population while maintaining access to a Cornell education.”

The report does not attribute these measures to Princeton’s success.

Doris Davis, minority recruitment officer, and Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice-president for University relations, declined to comment on how the University will address these concerns.

On campus, Marlon Daniels ’02, an African-American student who receives support from the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), is divided on Cornell’s minority and low-income recruitment efforts.

“In a way, Cornell gives money out, too,” he said. “There’s an amount New

York State residents get from TAP, and if [a needy student is] not a New

York resident, Cornell substitutes TAP with grant money. But it doesn’t do

enough for our yield at all.”

Compared to New York state schools, he added, “This is nothing unique that Cornell is doing.”

Another African-American student, who wished to be known only by her initials Y.A., believes that Cornell needs to improve its recruitment program for low-income students.

“Despite [Cornell’s] Higher/Educational Opportunity Program and the Office

of Minority Educational Affairs, I do not think Cornell specifically makes an effort to recruit lower-economic minorities on their campus,” she said.

“A prime example of this is the college fair they have every fall semester

in the surrounding cities of New York [in schools] where only a few lower-income students and minorities attend. In comparison to Princeton with their loan forgiveness program, Cornell cannot compete.”

Mona Lucas, dean of financial aid, and Princeton’s dean of admissions could not be reached in time for publication.


Archived article by Andy Guess