February 16, 2016

EDITORIAL: Considering the Effectiveness of Need-Blind Policy

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Amid another tuition hike, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced Thursday that Cornell would no longer be need-blind when considering the admission of international applicants due to insufficient funding for financial aid. Many students immediately expressed concern that this policy change would decrease the economic diversity of the international student population, with some thinking the new policy favors high-income and wealthier students.

Judgement on whether this admissions policy change will affect the diversity of the school needs to be withheld until the administration concretely lays out how they anticipate reappropriating the presumed monetary gain or decrease in debt from the switch to a need-aware policy. Whether this change will negatively affect Cornell, which has a significantly smaller endowment compared to the peer institutions in which we hope to remain competitive with, depends greatly on whether non-monetary intentions exist and what exactly they are with this sort of change in admissions policy.

Need-blindness is a great principle in theory because it says a school solely considers the quality of a student during admissions. However, in reality, admissions offices can infer a student’s financial situation from where one was raised or a parent’s level of education — a fact admissions officers admitted to the George Washington student newspaper in 2013. Many other high-profile institutions have turned away from need-blind policies for a different range of reasons, such as taking the monetary gain to grow faculty or build up programs. While abandoning need-blind policies could decrease economic diversity, Williams College turned to a need-aware policy to specifically target an increase in diversity by targeting those from low-income backgrounds. According to The Washington Post, more than 20 percent of of students in the Williams Class of 2019 come from families below the U.S. median income, up five percent from the year before.

The lack of student involvement in major University decisions recently for remains disappointing. Although we understand the need for administrators to make pragmatic financial decisions so the University may maintain its long-term fiscal viability and overall stability, we urge the administration to determine and reveal how the university will maintain economic diversity among international students.