The biggest college admissions scandal the FBI has ever prosecuted: wealthy individuals paying for their kids’ admissions into elite institutions with fake athletic records and artificially inflated test scores. And a Cornell alumnus, Gordon Caplan ’88, is among the offenders. This scandal goes to the root of a noxious, pervasive problem in higher education — the influence of money on opportunity. Though the $500,000 in bribes from actress Lori Loughlin to the University of Southern California is an extreme example of this national problem, universities like Cornell let wealth legally influence their admissions in small but unfair ways every year. While our University is “need-blind” for domestic applicants, we do not remove money from the admissions process.
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.
The $350 health fee for students not enrolled in Cornell’s Student Health Plan will be included in eligible students’ financial aid packages for the next academic year, President Elizabeth Garrett said at Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting. “I am pleased to announce that for the next academic year and thereafter, we will include a $350 student healthcare allowance in the cost of attendance and in financial aid calculations,” Garrett said, attributing the success of the shift largely to student advocacy. Garrett and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, responded to student concerns in an open-forum question and answer session. In her first semester on campus, Garrett said she discerned themes in the demands coming from the student body and described administrative efforts, including the addition of the health fee to student aid packages, to address those recurrent concerns. Shivang Tayal ’16, S.A. international representative at large, said there are a number of international issues that have yet to be resolved.