Today: Trustees Debate End to Need-Blind Admissions

Also: Roth discusses plan to link tuition increases with inflation, encourages three-year graduation.

Earlier this month, in the wake of the Affordability Forum with President Roth, I posted a brief history of need-blind activism at Wesleyan. In particular, I included an interview with Ben Foss ’95 about the 1992 occupation of North College following President Chace’s proposal to modify Wesleyan’s need-blind status. Wesleyan, I explained then, is today considering instituting a cap on financial aid, a policy under which the University would remain need-blind for 85%, maybe 90% of admitted students in the Class of 2017. Once that cap is reached, admissions would begin to take financial need into account in its acceptance decisions.

So Robert Alvarez ’96, a fellow activist and former member of Wesleyan Republicans, wrote in with additional reflections:

These were not exclusively “radical” undertakings by any means. Rather, they truly united the campus. [ . . . ] In fact, the Wesleyan Republicans that year wound up spending most of our budget faxing out press releases the day of the North College takeover (yes, go ahead  and snicker, but you didn’t email stuff like that back then and faxing was actually pretty expensive). That type of broad-based organizing is tons of hard work, but it is also powerfully effective when you pull it off. I truly hope that a similarly broad-based coalition can come together and protect Wesleyan’s proud financial aid tradition once again.

Turns out Judgment Day is sooner than I realized. Today, at 9:30 a.m. in the Daniel Family Commons, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees will meet to discuss Roth’s budget proposals for the coming academic year. When the proposed budget passes, it will spell a short-term end to longstanding need-blind admissions practices at Wesleyan. It will also mean linking tuition increases with inflation and encouraging a three-year graduation route. The Affordability Forum hinted at a willingness to include Wes students in the ongoing discussion. So where is all the fanfare, the chanting, the debating?

President Roth has not been silent on all issues surrounding Wesleyan’s affordability and financial practices. In a recent guest post for the Washington Post, the President reflects on his own three-year graduation from Wes (“three marvelous years here were enough to set me squarely on the path of a lifetime of learning”) and suggests encouraging that accelerated path for similarly qualified students with financial concerns. “By making this experience a little more accessible,” Roth writes, “I am betting we will only add to the diversity and quality of the experience for all our undergraduates.” Additionally, he alludes to recent talks with the trustees concerning Wesleyan’s “unsustainable” model of tuition and financial aid and suggests “measures we can take to make the university more affordable while still ensuring the quality of an education that comes from face-to-face learning with accomplished scholar-teachers.”

The solution, concludes Roth, is not only to “make more visible” the possibility of graduating in three years:

The three-year option isn’t for everyone, but for those students who are prepared to develop their majors a little sooner, shorten their vacations by participating in summer sessions, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on campus, this more economical BA might be of genuine interest. In our case, allowing for some summer expenses, families would still save about 20 percent from the total bill for an undergraduate degree.

But also to link tuition increases with inflation while minimizing excessive student loans:

In a new model we are developing we will be committed to spending almost a third of our revenue on scholarships while meeting the financial need of our students without requiring excessive loans. We will also commit to linking tuition increases with inflation, rather than depending on the much higher rates of increase to which Wesleyan (like most colleges and universities) has been accustomed for decades.

It’s an inspiring model—and a candid assessment of the affordability crisis that lands Wes on lists like Business Insider’s Most Expensive Schools. But nowhere in the article does Roth mention changes to Wes’ need-blind status accompanying that model. Here’s a brief rundown on the new (proposed) need-aware policy, courtesy of a source close to the Board who wishes to remain anonymous:

Wesleyan, as of Friday morning, will be instituting a cap on financial aid for the Class of 2017 and will no longer have a 100% need-blind admissions process. For this coming year (2012-2013 budget and Class of 2016), tuition is increasing by 4.5% and the amount of financial aid will be increasing by 15% over this year (this all already set). For the 2017ers, however, financial aid will be capped at 32%—which is 32% of the lump-sum of all the money we’d get if everyone paid full tuition. Tuition is likely to increase about 3-3.5% in the same year (for the 2013-14 budgetary year) based on inflation. For the 2014-15 budget and the Class of 2018, financial aid will be capped at 31%, the following year at 30%, and finally for the Class of 2020 at 29%, where it will stay until we dig ourselves out our fiscal problems. Once at 29%, tuition and financial aid will rise in sync with each other, based on inflation.

This will be more or less approved at the Board of Trustees Meeting Friday morning, which starts at 9:30am in the DFC.

When Wesleying contacted President Roth for further details on the financial plan, he pointed us back to the Washington Post piece and said he would be willing to talk about the situation once this week’s meetings have been wrapped up. That is, once the relevant decisions have been made. Given all the talk recently about including student input in significant administrative decisions (“on the financial aid side, I think it’s always good to consult more,” the President told the Argus), the timeline seems disconcerting.

Again, this is not the first time that the administration has proposed axing need-blind admissions to cope with budgetary crisis. There was the “Save Aid-Blind Letter Drive” in 1982. And there were the aforementioned series of protests regarding Chace’s five-year plan in 1991-92. This is merely the first time in recent Wesleyan history that students have permitted the decision to go forward. Whether that reflects on the state of activism at Wes or the dire state of university finances today—well, you debate. Discuss in the comments section. Or outside the DFC.

Event: Board of Trustees Meeting
Date: Friday, May 25
Time: 9:30 a.m. – ??
Place: Daniel Family Commons


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88 thoughts on “Today: Trustees Debate End to Need-Blind Admissions

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  4. recent alum

    To: Angry

    We have fundamental differences of opinion, and I think you’re being (and I’m not trying to name call here, this is a calm, rational discussion I hope) naive and idealistic (which are good things to be most of the time). 

    From that paper: “They also find that the average SAT score of the schools students applied to but did not attend is a much stronger predictor of students’ subsequent income”

    Yes, I know the paper stated that an elite school (aka high tuition) will have a large effect for low income students, per your quote, but as I stated before, most of the elite schools ARE need-blind. AND, Wes, is still 90% need-blind.

    The quote I used aboves shows that not all hope is lost for those students that don’t attend elite schools. If they are smart enough to apply to those schools, they are likely to (at least somewhat) succeed. I consider myself liberal (especially socially) but even I would say your logic, taken to the extreme, has hints of socialism and a denial of the capitalism fabric of this country. There will always be private options for everything – it will be for those who can afford it, and for those who benefit from the generosity of those who also can.

    As I said before, every student has a right to an education. The fact that the elite schools are largely need-blind is wonderful, but again, is NOT required of them, nor should it be. Should prices for food be lowered for poor people? Of course, that’s what food stamps are for. However, prices for organic produce aren’t lowered for food stamp purchases. People deserve rights to the basics. To not go hungry. But to be able to have grass-fed beef, pesticide free cucumbers? You have to pay up (not that people on food stamps are stuck buying crap, to my knowledge). 

    For Wesleyan’s situation: the money simply isn’t there. The alternative is the stay need-blind, but give everyone more loans. In my opinion, that actually makes things worse, because then you have students graduating with $50,000 – $100,000 in loans, and then the graduating students are screwed AFTER getting the degree (in other words, trapped). 

    My key point: At least this way, Wes can give those admitted good financial aid packages (especially low-income students) and won’t have poor students graduating with obscene amounts of loans. 

    Wes is being pragmatic here. Wes is also in the quiet phase of its next capital campaign, which will raise $200+ million for the endowment, and hopefully should restore need-blind status in a few years, once the campaign ends. Roth himself said he wants to restore need-blind when the money is there. There is a proud tradition of need-blind admissions at Wes, and once the money is there, it will continue.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Angry (but not combative).

      1) “Should prices for food be lowered for poor people? Of course, that’s what food stamps are for. However, prices for organic produce aren’t lowered for food stamp purchases. People deserve rights to the basics. To not go hungry. But to be able to have grass-fed beef, pesticide free cucumbers? You have to pay up (not that people on food stamps are stuck buying crap, to my knowledge).”

      As is the case with food, in states where public education is very poor quality those who are both qualified and from low-income families are sometimes stuck with crap. But your argument about the food system does not hold weight in my opinion. Check out, for example, The idea is that often people on food stamps ARE stuck with crap (not in every city, nor in every circumstance, but in this case it is true). That is why many farmer’s markets in NYC accept food stamps. Healthy food is a right. And btw, undernourished (not necessarily underfed, but undernourished) children become society’s problem. It’s in all of our best interests that poor people eat aforementioned grass-fed beef. This is analogous to education. But this is getting repetitive. I think we’ve begun to beat a dead horse.  

      2) And on your next point, I agree. I believe it is important for us to articulate our concerns with the (IMHO) injustice of a need-aware elite institution because, whether it is feasible at this moment or not (and believe me, I understand the complexity of the issue but that does not mean I have yet seen enough evidence to convince me that it is not still feasible), it is important that the University understand that socioeconomic diversity and equality are priorities of the student body. 

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  8. Tenured Radical

    I think this is an excellent post, followed by excellent comments.  A small contribution from a former faculty member:

    The problem with need-blind for university managers is not that it is too much, it’s that it is a volatile that makes long-range planning difficult to impossible. I remember this from my days back on a finance committee, where we looked at it almost every year.  You can “budget” for financial aid, but never know if you will meet your budget.  Wesleyan is currently in an austerity period, patterned on neo-liberal governmentality, where budget reductions are usually coupled to a rise in management costs and policy changes that make future budget planning more predictable.  

    That said, from my time on the Admissions committee, I know this: need-blind makes almost no difference in who is admitted. I high proportion of non-US nationals are full payers, for example, which is one reason why admissions officers from all schools — including Wesleyan — have been making those recruiting trips to China, Singapore, and other countries with emergent elites. Some people are already admitted because they are as good as the next person and they are full payers (one of the comments points to the way this works by simply looking at other information on the student’s background.) 

    However, need-blind admissions does make a big difference in who applies within the United States.  Students who are from working class, poor and immigrant families believe that they will not be discriminated against under a need blind system, so you get a larger pool of able candidates that make the school more diverse through US-based admissions pools.

    The size of the endowment, however, continues to be small, not because alumni/ae don’t give, because Wesleyan relies on so much of its annual fundraising for its operating expenses, and did so for several decades prior to Roth’s tenure as president.  Austerity — which includes several years of deliberate capping of faculty salaries and raising the cost of benefits that has ceased to be necessary (last year there was a multi-million dollar surplus, but no raises in that year and lowball raises for senior faculty this year) — is a long range plan to grow the endowment by making other budget decisions that make Wesleyan’s costs easier to estimate in the coming years.  So it’s a little more complicated than it seems until you put many pieces of the puzzle together.

    One more thing:  I predict Wesleyan faculty will *all* be teaching 3-2 in the coming years:  there is no other way that a curriculum that makes a three-year graduation possible can be mounted.  This will mean a mandatory course in the summer or in a J-term, as is currently the case at Williams.  Faculty have been moved in this direction already because the lack of raises has caused many to work a fifth course into their household budget just to keep up with inflation, and many have gotten used to teaching 5, or even 6 courses a year.  This has consequences for students, as does taking a bunch of talented people who have already had pressure-cooker lives to get to Wes and pressuring them to save 20% by compressing a four-year degree into three.  President Roth works incredibly hard, and always had:  my memory from a long ago profile is that he would get up at 4 a.m. to do the work necessary for this accelerated degree, and I know very few students who can even imagine doing that.

      1. Tenured_Radical

        And by the way:  has anyone noticed that this is a 20% reduction, not a 25% reduction as one might imagine for a one-year reduction in path to degree?  This means a higher cost per credit hour, even though the overall dollars to degree is smaller.

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  11. recent alum

    Another point – Wes IS going to link tuition increases to inflation (instead of more than inflation). That’s one of the reasons need-blind is being reduced from 100% to 85-90% of students. Tuition increases are going to slow down.

  12. sneaky all right

    From what I can tell, student activism is still strong at Wesleyan. The lack of student protests concerning this administrative decision has mainly to do with timing: it was announced during finals week when people were either cramming or leaving campus.

    1. Shame on you

       It’s shameful that they actually followed through with announcing it then and then meeting when more than half of the school is gone.

      1. Zach

        The university didn’t announce it. Wesleying did. Need-blind admissions was not mentioned in Roth’s Washington Post piece.

  13. recent alum

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) This policy is being put in place because the endowment simply is NOT large enough to fund Wesleyan as it should be funded. The “austerity” measure here is to ease the strain on the budget until the endowment grows enough that need-blind can be put back into place.

    2) MOST importantly, Wes is not eliminating need-blind completely. I repeat, NOT. It will still be need-blind for 85-90% of the incoming class. Note that Wes HAS ALREADY BEEN need-aware for transfers and waitlist acceptees for the past few years, and NO ONE SEEMED TO CARE.

    3) Allowing people to go off the mealplan and off campus housing actually makes things more expensive for the school. It results in high variability in usage in housing, which makes it harder to budget, and makes buying food more expensive (WeShop is expensive because it can’t buy in large quantities – this problem would just get worse). The mealplan would be crappy (worse quality and still expensive) if not everyone was on it.

    4) To BlueZero: Roth makes $340k, and this is less than virtually every other NESCAC president (even Bates!). That salary is the going rate for selective liberal arts college presidents. It’s non-negotiable. 

    5) Wesleyan has not been transparent in its plan to change this financial aid policy.

    6) Being obnoxious will not result in the admin listening to you. Being reasonable (yet firm) might draw some ears. 

    7) As mentioned by another poster, Tufts, Oberlin, Reed, Smith (which has tons of $$$) and some other peer schools are not need-blind.

    8) Donate. It’s the only way we can get need-blind back. The endowment needs to grow as fast as fucking possible.

    1. Zach


      Correct about transfers. But what you interpret as indifference likely has a lot more to do with the fact that few were made aware of the change. Which, obviously, is the problem we’re discussing.


      Not sure how this point undermines any arguments in favor of the values and history of need-blind at Wesleyan.

      1. recent alum

        Apologies about the waitlist, misread an Argus article from a few years back – it was Bowdoin that was need-aware for transfers. 

        The point about the peer schools is that it’s not like some great travesty where Wes is going to be a place only for the wealthy (at least any moreso than it already is). Tufts (and those other schools) is still a diverse place with a lot of people on financial aid. It’s also to point out that, like Tufts, Wesleyan is going to STILL be need blind for MOST of the class. 

        1. Zach

          True, but it also underscores how uniquely valued Wesleyan’s own tradition of need-blind admissions is,  or at least how valued it was in 1992 ( among students and alumni.

          No one’s calling it the apocalypse, but the change objectively favors wealthy applicants in the admissions process more than is already so. I think we’re in agreement that the discussion shouldn’t take place behind closed doors.

    2. Batte_A

      A few thoughts on some of your thoughts:

      1) Easing the strain on the budget: Not austerity. Doing it by attempting to limit the amount of middle/working class students while claiming all other options were exhausted: Austerity.

      2) Other than correcting “transfers and waitlist acceptees” to “transfers and international students”, I agree.

      5) Can’t overemphasize how crucial this is (to me, at least).

      6) Depends. Would you consider the building occupations of Wesleyan’s past obnoxious? I agree that tactics are crucial, though.

      8) It’s not the only way, but an upswing in donations would definitely do a lot to ease the endowment issues.

  14. BlueZero

    So is Roth actually making Wesleyan better or just taking 500k a year, writing articles about how great/necessary we are, and playing puppet to the board?



  16. Eric Lopez


  17. Michel Foucault

     3 PM at the UOC! (Between Eclectic and Beta)


  18. Faculty

    The greatest expense at Wesleyan is paying Professors who need to retire.  Wesleyan should look at ways to encourage their retirement and hirer younger faculty who will be paid less.  This might seem like an odd idea, the faculty members have experience etc… However, new faculty brings new ideas.  

  19. Jeff R

    Well, at least now I know what to say when I refuse to donate when they all me. “I’ll consider donating when you bring back need-blind. I have no interest in funding some rich kid’s education.”

    1. '14

       Alternatively, you could donate directly to financial aid and help alleviate the problem. Instead of saying ‘somebody else fix this, then I’ll help.’

    2. Think smarter.

      Your donation will continue funding kids who can’t afford it. Rich kids will continue funding. There will simply be fewer kids who can’t afford it – and if everyone uses logically unsound arguments like “”I’ll consider donating when you bring back need-blind,” the number of needier kids who Wes can accommodate will continue decreasing

      So thanks.

    3. '13

      You could donate specifically to scholarships for financial aid students. These kinds of donations are desperately needed to reduce the absurdly high loan packages Wesleyan allots . You would be contributing then directly to a (probably very grateful) student’s ability to afford Wesleyan. If all the alum who had the money contributed to financial aid for student’s scholarships we wouldn’t have to be talking about need-aware admission. The problem is the lack of money for supplementing or paying for these financial aid students’ tuitions – donating less will only further exacerbate the problem. 

    4. ME

       How did you even get into Wes? This is the most illogical and counterproductive sentiment.

    5. Student receiving lots of aid

      Agreed with Jeff. Think about it. There are lots of other great schools in the country that are need-blind. I know we are all convinced Wes is the greatest place on earth, but you know damn well most Wes kinds would manage just fine at another school, be it Reed, Swarthmore, Brown, Vassar, etc. This is such a strain for the administration, and it is all about money. If we organized people to not donate unless they went need blind, it would send a message to all universities in America that cutting aid for students is NOT the best way to make more money. It’s not like if Wesleyan goes under, everybody is screwed. If you are good enough to get into Wesleyan, you can also get into other decent schools. We no longer go to a very elite school. Deal with it.
      TL;DR: Lots of good schools in the US with need blind. Make an example out of Wesleyan that cutting need blind is NOT okay.

      1. Prefers Facts

         I think you’re mistaking Wesleyan for a for-profit university.  Your post is riddled with misconceptions. 1) Wesleyan does not exist to “make money.” It exists to provide a great education. 2) Demonstrating (via not donating) is a good way to not solve the problem.  It will only serve to prevent low-income students from attending Wesleyan, as noted by other posters. 3) Almost none of our peer schools still have real need-blind admissions. They may fake it — using a need-aware waitlist or other methods — but they aren’t truly need blind. And many of them have WAY more money than us. So, I hope you can see that not donating (meaning less money) only furthers the problem. It’s not at all about Wesleyan being “a very elite school” or not.

  20. Angry.

    What is already scary is the number of ways Wesleyan and other schools have to by not need blind while pretending to be need blind. For example, they can pretty much know (or make a reasonable guess) at a person’s socioeconomic status based on SAT scores (correlate significantly with income, not success in HS, future success in college, or eventual personal income), number of degrees earned by the parents of each applicant (and from where…), whether hir attended a private school, and even sneakily based on hir name. Actually, it’s not art to pin-point a person’s socioeconomic status based on name alone. What, now what thinks its weird already that half of students pay full price? They know already. Pretty much. This will just make it easier for them. 

    That doesn’t mean its not terrifying. Education is being so completely commodified and this proposal should not even be on the table. If Wesleyan determined that discriminating based on race in a significant way (not affirmative action of sorts but actual discrimination, like if the University met to consider not admitting Latin students or GLBTQ students, or something else arbitrary and out of the student’s control) because they determined that it would be good for the budget EVERYONE would and SHOULD be up in arms.

    What I’m saying is, a discriminatory university has no right to exist, just like elitist clubs whose existence is predicated on discrimination have no right to exist. If private education is not sustainable in an equitable, not discriminatory way, private education should not exist.

    Some suggestions, then:
    1) make education more affordable by allowing (at least) juniors and seniors to live off campus and not be on the meal plan.
    2) stop spending as much money on the salaries of administration officials who are sending higher education to hell in a hand basket
    3) stop paying so much to make the lawns pretty
    4)  big flat screen TVs in Usdan? Really????????!?!?!?!!!!??

    and the list goes on and on. 


    1. '13

      I essentially agree with almost everything you said but to put this in perspective, schools that are both need-blind and full-need are rare. Peer schools that are need-aware for a small percentage of the student body include Tufts, Oberlin, Reed, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Macalester. Some of these schools have bigger endowments (per student) than Wesleyan, and some of them are also probably more socioeconomically diverse than Wesleyan. 

      Doesn’t justify the way this policy is being carried out and I think the entire way private schools do business is problematic, but the ability to be need-blind (as much as we might be attached to the idea philosophically) is in some sense a luxury that depends on a large endowment. 

      1. Zach

        For basic clarification purposes: I never meant to suggest that there are not (or have never been) compelling arguments in favor of limiting need-blind admissions under certain circumstances. I just don’t think any argument in favor of the measure justifies leaving students in the dark during the decision-making process while publicizing other, less contentious measures in the Wash Post.

        It’s notable that Tufts, Oberlin, and other schools all practice some form of need-aware. But it also underscores how unique and valued Wesleyan’s need-blind tradition is—a luxury, but also a guiding admissions philosophy.

        1. pyrotechnics

           It is also of note that many of our peer schools, such as Middlebury or Bowdoin, just kinda fake need-blind by being need-aware on the waitlist.

      2. Angry.

        Thank you , that’s a very good point. I would like it for people on all sides of the debate to consider carefully that the issue is not black and white. 
        I’m interested in doing some more research about this. Where have you been finding your information?

    2. recent alum

      Agreed on the administrators. 

      Fun fact – Wesleyan spends 1/5 on lawncare compared to peer schools. Wes was actually noted for being extremely efficient by a third-party campus evaluation company in terms of its landscaping expenses.

      Did I mention we have too many administrators?

    3. ME

      I don’t understand how students act like private universities are only now becoming  exclusive and elitist institutions. Private schooling has always, by definition, been available to mostly those who can afford it. I know this sounds really insensitive, but no one in America has an absolute right to a private education. It’s a luxury.

      “Education is becoming so completely commodified.” When has private education NOT been commodified? To what halcyon days are you referring to when all students came to Wesleyan based solely on merit?

      Look, I’m not saying we should return to the days when college was just basically a good ole boys club. I just think it makes sense to look at this pragmatically. It’s not and never has been the role of a private university to fight social injustice and try to level the American playing field. Of COURSE it’s unfair that some people go to college and others don’t. American life is unfair. In a capitalist system, people have unequal access to resources. If you have a problem with that, fine. But attacking Wesleyan for dealing with basic economic realities seems to me pathetically misconceived.

      Moreover, your suggestions reveal how little you know about the actual economic situation at Wesleyan. Allowing juniors and seniors off the meal plan would simply inflate the cost of meals for underclassmen. As it is, Bon Appetit LOSES money on our existing meal plan–Wesleyan has to subsidize the difference. Furthermore, it would probably involve a significant reduction in the quality and variety of the food at Wes. That means no more Vegan section and organic produce at Weshop. Maybe you’re ok with that, but I bet a lot of people wouldn’t be.

      Furthermore, stop spending so much on the salaries of administration officials? What officials, exactly? You realize no one’s gotten into the college game to strike it rich. Furthermore, every attempt to actually lower costs on personnel is met with widespread outrage–witness the protest over the attempt to make visiting teachers take on five courses.

      And finally, the lawns and Usdan TVs? Please. Those little expenditures make up a TINY FRACTION of the annual budget. It’s really easy to point to things like that and say “LOOK HOW SUPERFICIAL AND FRIVOLOUS THEY ARE BLAH BLAH BLAH” but spending like that is simply not what’s driving up the cost of Wesleyan every year. Personnel accounts for the vast majority of the budget, and it’s difficult and politically controversial to change that.

      1. Angry.

        First of all, I think that this conversation will be as productive as possible if you refrain from being as combative as you seem to be right now. Like I said, I don’t see this as black and white. I am just engaging in the conversation. 

        That being said. 

        Unless a private school can be need blind it has no right to exist. period. actually, private education probably should not exist unless it can be an equalizer which, in theory and not in practice, it could be. Step back and it’s pretty socialist…everyone pays according to hir ability and receives the same same education and the same degree. I’m not thinking about this simplistically. OF COURSE I understand that this is not the reality. Rich people are more likely to apply to private schools. Rich people are more likely to get in to private colleges. Rich people are more likely to be able to play the game that is private education. 

        But since an elite degree is (somewhat) of a ticket to an elite job, a classist system that pays for itself with classist policies should be illegal because of the degree to which it props itself up by keeping others down. 

        Would you have spent so much time justifying need aware admission if for some reason a student’s sexual preference played some role in how much money the university paid per student? Meaning, what if admission were “sexuality” aware and if you were a non traditional sexuality you were less likely to get in to Wesleyan? Not acceptable. It seems like an absurd scenario but sexuality is not choice, just like socioeconomic status. 

        There has to be another way.   

        1. recent alum

          There are only about 20-30 schools in the country that are fully need-blind. Are you you saying the other 2,000 private schools should just close?

          It’s not like Wes WANTS to be need-aware. The finances are what they are, and the goal of this is to build the endowment so that Wes can go back to being need-blind. Wes wasn’t always need-blind – it started maybe 30-40 years ago. Wes is still being need blind for 85-90% of the class. It’s not like lower-income students will have no chance at admission.

          An elite, private education is a privilege, not a right. (note how I didn’t say education in general, however. That IS a right.) It’s a great thing that weathy schools choose to admit lower-income students, but in reality, they have no need to do so. They do it as a service to society and the greater good. If all Wes can do is 85% of what it has been doing in the regard, that’s a hell of a lot better than not at all.

          Someone with low socioeconomic status can go to a public university if that person wants a college degree. The fact that someone with no income can get a free ride at a $56,000 per year school is awesome. Is it a right? No. It’s a luxury good that (thankfully) happens to be reachable. 

          Healthcare is also a right. Does that mean everyone can get liposuction or the best possible prosthetic arm or the best doctors (and have medicare pay for it)? No, but it does mean everyone in this country can get basic medical care, even if they have to walk into an ER to do so. Just because something is a right, doesn’t mean the ultra, luxury, top of the line choice should be a right, also. But in Wesleyan’s case, it sometimes is (and hopefully will be even more so once the endowment comes back). 

          1. Angry.

            Wow. This post amazes me. Absolutely amazes me. Go back. Read that. What incredible entitlement. Comparing private education to liposuction? I deserve a better education because I happened to be born into a wealthy family? 

            And this is not just about having a fun time. It’s not the fancy restaurant or the dining on a budget restaurant for the birthday dinner. There are very real consequences of a system that reinforces the deep class divides created by many privatized institutions. 
            Private education makes it so that rich people can stay rich, unless it is accessible to qualified individuals from all socioeconomic brackets. Being wealthy should not make it such that you have access to good quality health care. If it’s a right, access should be equal. Period. If lipsuction is something that keeps people alive, and those without enough money would die without it, it should be equally accessible to all people. Similarly, being a wealthy person (which is arbitrary because almost none of us Weskids have control over the socioeconomic bracket into which we were born) should not make it such that you have better access to an education that will get us into good grad schools or good jobs that will make us rich. Non-need blind elite universities allow the rich to stay rich.   

            If a private university cannot be need blind (or working constantly to become need blind and accessible to all qualified applicants) they reinforce a system in which the rich stay rich at the expense of the poor. One of the reasons I chose a need-blind university. Also the reason I’m not sure you can justify the existence of any private university to begin with (because there are so many reasons private education is more accessible to the wealthy). 

          2. recent alum

            I think you are putting too much stock into a “private” education vs. a good public one. There are many successful people who went to Rugters, Wisconsin, UNC, Berkeley, etc. etc. I can go on and on. Wesleyan is not this special place where, lo and behold, you are suddenly in the realm of the elite. You have to work hard and apply yourself after graduation. It’s been fairly well studied and proven that where you go to school doesn’t really matter. As long as you go to school. As long as you have that BA or BS. 

            Private school, and schools like Wesleyan, are in fact luxury goods, as I said. I went to public high school, never had fancy things, but I worked hard, and the finances worked for me to go to Wes. But you know what? I probably would have gotten where I am today if I HAD gone to Rutgers. All an elite private school (not just ANY private school) gives you is “oos” and “ahhs” when you tell someone where you went to school. People who get into private schools are already more likely to be successful because they are hard-working to begin with. Those same people, had they gone to public school, would have been just as successful (of course there are a few exceptions). 

            I stand by everything I said. I used liposuction with a “non-life-saving” intention, you can sub that with Botox if you want.

            I’m all for giving everyone the basics. If you want extras, you gotta pay (except at need-blind school, and even Wes, which still is 85-90% need-blind).

            What is wrong with allowing the rich to stay rich? As long as it’s not at the expense of the poor (and again, public universities can be very good so it ISN’T to their detriment) then it doesn’t do any harm. It’s not that I think need-blind is bad. I think it’s very good. But calling it “absolutely essential” and “immoral not to have it” is going a bit too far. It’s a luxury good, whether you like it or not. 

            Also, what about high school? Should we get rid of the Exter’s and Harvard Westlake’s of the world if they aren’t need-blind? Do public schools hurt people in the long run when they have to compete against the Exeter grads and the Andover grads?

          3. Angry.

            I think we may be at an impasse, unless you’d like to tell me what studies show that going to Wesleyan does not give you an advantage over going to UMass Amherst (where I would have gone, had I gone to public college). 

            I take issue with the idea that you have do advantage going to private school. I know at least a few kids at Wes who remind me of people I went to (public, regional, huge) high school with. Only the other kids didn’t have the $$$ to be coddled along the way to getting into college and I KNOW that UMass would not give a few of these kids the second, third, and fourth chances they’ve gotten at Wes. I know plenty of kids who had a pretty cushiony route on their way to Wes, thanks to Daddy’s dough. I don’t think it is for me to determine who is “qualified” so I say this only because I know many people would admit that this is the case for themselves, to greater or lesser degrees. 

            You are wrong if you think that getting into Wesleyan has to do with how hard you worked, only. This is a debate for a different time but more than 50% pay full tuition? Does that mean that wealthy people are harder working and smarter? 

            Private high schools: opposed to them for the same reasons I am opposed in many ways to private universities. They give people an unfair advantage in getting into college (between 40 and 60 percent of Weskids went to elite private schools) which, in turn, give people an advantage in making $$$ (which you, I believe incorrectly, disagree with…which is why we may be at an impasse).  

            This article is very interesting:
            There is a segment of it that addresses the (unfair) socioeconomic advantages of going to an elite school. The rest is interesting, but for other reasons that aren’t that related to our discussion (and I disagree with a good deal of the other stuff). 

            What’s wrong with keeping the rich rich? That seems like a silly question. Because the rich cannot be hyper rich without making it such that other people are poor. This is why the 16th amendment and the estate tax were implemented (and have helped but not enough considering the wealth disparity that still exists in the US). Resources are finite and those who have them have more freedom and political sway. And even if a hyper wealthy class is to continue to exist it should absolutely be a class of people who earned $$ in diverse ways (not, grandpa was rich, dad was rich, now im rich).

            But. I think we may just disagree fundamentally?

          4. recent alum

            We may indeed disgaree fundamentally. A couple points:

            I didn’t say (or mean to say) that the only hard workers are those in elite schools. People at Wesleyan have worked hard (and a lot are rich). However, it’s not exclusionary. There are plenty of people who work hard (and maybe aren’t rich) that aren’t at Wesleyan. If p then q, but if not p, q is still possible (p = Wes, q = hard worker).

            Said another way, almost everyone at Wesleyan has worked hard, whereas at public (or “lesser”)  schools, there is a smaller percentage of hard workers.

            I think the wealth disparity is one of the biggest reasons the economy is still crap and the country can’t find jobs. The middle class doesn’t have the money to drive consumer spending – which would create more jobs. However, I think I am comfortable with a slightly larger wealth imbalance than you are (though we both think the current state is unsustainable).

   this basically says that it’s not where you went to school, but how hard you work.  It does say towards the end that there’s a differentiation between selectivity and money spent per student (the latter has an effect while the former doesn’t) which is yet another debate. The point is, the link is uncertain at best and non-existant at worst. 

            And also, I agree with you that need-blind is a wonderful thing and necessary to achieve diversity and socioeconomic equality and should be re-instated ASAP. My point in all of this is, is saying that the 2,000 privates not practicing need-blind policies are NOT immoral, and frankly, most of them aren’t good enough to provide upward social mobility anyway. It’s not a terrible tragedy if Wes is 85% need-blind for a few years until its finances return to order. The schools that matter ARE need-blind (or mostly…).

          5. Angry.

            I intend on reading that article but before I do I want to say that I think we should not be too confident that revoking 100 percent (or nearly) need-blind status is a temporary step. It could instead be a foot in the door and I am wary (very, very wary…so0 wary…) of that. 

            Of course another thing to keep in mind is that not all state schools provide good quality education (not all state schools are Rutgers, UCLA, UMich, UMass, U. Virginia, etc). And I stand by my belief that good quality education is a right, not a privilege.  It would be interesting to find data about whether the state of the public university system in the US would be better if it weren’t for private universities snatching up rich and/or wealthy kids for their own stock (if such data exists, and if it doesn’t it should).

            Thanks for engaging with me on this!

            -Yona ’14

          6. Angry.

            The following passages from the article you sent seem to contradict what you are saying, as I understand it. The model is applicable, apparently, only among similarly priced colleges (for example, if I were deciding between UMass Amherst, UMass Dartmouth, and UMass Lowell I should not base my choice on potential future income. But when choosing between Wes and UMass, it could be a factor, as the authors point out that higher price tag for school=likely higher income (which could be interpreted to mean rich–>rich–>rich, etc):

            “Still, they do find that some aspects of colleges are related to students’ subsequent economic success, even after adjusting for the abilities of the students upon applying to college. For example, students who attend colleges with higher average tuition costs or spending per student tend to earn higher incomes later on…The authors speculate that tuition may affect future earnings because schools with higher tuitions offer more resources or higher quality products to their students.”

            They also indicate the importance of giving low-income students access to elite eduction in decreasing wealth disparity: 

            “Finally, the results of this study suggest that no matter what measurement of college quality is used, the income gains from attending an elite college are highest for students from a disadvantaged background. ‘School admission and financial aid policies that have as a goal attracting students from more disadvantaged family backgrounds may raise national income, as these students appear to benefit most from attending a more elite college,’ they say. Their results are bound to play a role in the national debate over financial aid and affirmative action policies at the nation’s premier schools.”

            So…it doesn’t matter where you go to college? This article says it does if you are poor to begin with. They say that if you come from a low-income family it DOES matter if you get the opportunity to choose between UMass and Wes, or Rutgers and Oberlin, or whatever. 

            I was disappointed because I expected that article to make me feel better about private education and it didn’t. It supported what I already thought to be true.  
            Please try again, I’d like to feel better :(

          7. Angry.

            p.p.s. please reply as a comment in response to the article, not as a reply to this and I’ll look for Recent Alum. These posts are getting toooo skinny. I like my weslying posts to be healthy and thick. 

        2. ME

          Seems like you essentially just disagree with realities of capitalism here, in which case trying to have a productive conversation seems pretty silly and ultimately futile.

          Private education has a clear  right to exist. There’s no guarantee of an equal playing field. Period.

          The “sexuality” comparison is specious. Sexuality is an innate and essential characteristic of a person’s identity. It cannot be changed or altered. Theoretically, in a capitalist society, one can change or improve their class status.

          Furthermore, the comparison to “sexuality” basically indicts every single business for discriminating on ability to pay. Is Le Bernardin charging $250 prix fixe meals comparable to them putting a “NO GAYS ALLOWED” sign on the door?

          Every American has a right to an education, just like every American has a right to food. Yet where you and I differ is that I don’t think that every American has a right to the BEST education, just like every American doesn’t have a right to the BEST food. Who gets the BEST is determined by their ability to pay.

          Also, if you think private education that props up a classist system shouldn’t exist, you should really take issue with the entire existence of Wesleyan and colleges of its ilk. It’s not like Wesleyan is only NOW propagating classism by becoming “need aware.” Private education is inherently classist! That’s why we all attend Wesleyan! To get a leg up on the competitive capitalist ladder! By choosing a private college you forwent a cheaper yet less prestigious experience at a public university. That makes you complicit in the “classist system” you profess to despise.

      2. Angry.

        reviewing things i wanted to ask another quick question. why is the fact that bon app loses money a reason for the meal plan to continue to exist? that wes needs to subsidize it (with tuition money) seems to indicate that we’d be better off without such an extensive meal plan. 

        also, there wouldn’t have to be as many options in wesshop if Juniors and Seniors weren’t on the meal plan, so losing variety would not be an issue, really. but even if we did lose SOME variety that would be better than paying 12-13+ thousand room and board…WAY more than it would actually cost to live and eat in the non-wesleyan world. I don’t know how much of that 12 thousand is meal plan related because I cant find the breakdown on the website. 

        1. new grad's mom

          My understanding is that meal plan portion was $5200 for 2011/2012 seniors.

  21. student'15

    “shorten their vacations by participating in summer sessions”….and take summer courses like what? Forensics: Science Behind CSI? Wesleyan’s summer sessions needs introductory courses, like Chem or Bio, so that students can actually advance over the summer and not merely take “fun” classes

  22. A Realistic Pragmatist

    It’s about time they did this!  The model of “needs-blind” is completely unsustainable and puts a huge burden on those that do not qualify for aid because they do not meet some arbitrary definition of “need”.  For those that object, ask yourself one simple question:  If all of the applicants that were accepted on a needs blind basis ended up requiring significant financial aid, how could the university possibly operate??  It still has to pay teachers, staff, maintenance, utilities, etc.  Where would the money come from?  The endowment  is not sufficient to cover all costs of operation – it has to come from tuition.  This is the right choice to be able to get tuition rates back to a reasonable level while still providing significant aid.

    1. Batte_A

      People seem to often label themselves as “realistic” or “pragmatic” if they support unpopular cost-cutting/revenue-increasing measures (Side note: financial aid isn’t an expenditure the University gives money to – it’s the absence of income the university gets from wealthier families.), but much like the austerity debate it’s not “realistic” to unquestioningly accept these measures. This was NOT the only option – in the interview Zach linked to (, the student involved in organizing against changing Wesleyan’s need-blind (unless you’re an international or transfer student) policy mentioned that, thanks to a targeted campaign and with the help of the Econ department, a new plan was created that tightened belts without changing the policy ( That the Board and the President have gone forward with this WITHOUT consulting or including campus communities directly affected (students) or otherwise concerned (faculty and other staff members, alumni) represents a serious problem with the way important decisions are made at this school and similar institutions elsewhere.

      (Sorry for the unwieldly writing, but I was trying to include as much information as I could without rambling on too long.)

    2. Kukibee

      “Arbitrary definition of “need””? Let me just say that the definition of “need” is not that arbitrary. It starts when paying for Wes causes significant financial hardship to the family. On my case, everyone in my family would starve to death or have to leave the country if we were paying even 20% of tuition for the year. Then there are level of need, ex. “we can pay some but if we paid all we’d starve” etc. Just because there are some people who feel that the “hardship” they’d encounter if they paid for school means working harder to earn money or foregoing family vacations does not make the definition of need arbitrary. “Need” means that there’s little short of selling your soul you could do to come up with the money necessary to pay for full tuition. When people choose to take out loans to pay that their own decision, but the hardship is the same because that money needs to be paid back with interest at some point. There are too many factors when it comes to deciding a student’s status for it to be arbitrary.

    3. Kukibee

       Another short response. “This is the right choice to be able to get tuition rates back to a reasonable level while still providing significant aid.”

      I don’t hear any talk of getting tuition rates back to a reasonable level. The only thing Roth and the administration have mentioned is raising tuition to adjust for inflation every year.

    4. "needy"

      Lololol “arbitrary”? Clearly your perception of wealth is skewed, because numbers don’t lie. If you don’t qualify for need-based aid, you’re really, really rich. Sorry if daddy has to sell the yacht to pay for school….

      1. Westchester

        nope. lots of upper middle class people don’t qualify for financial aid and have to graduate in three years. just because you don’t qualify doesn’t mean that paying full tuition isn’t really hard. upper middle class families kinda get left behind in the system…

  23. Graduating

    My initial reaction: this is probably what everyone else does, but most schools just know to lie about it…

    1. Bobby Ray

      Make sure people whose opinions the administration actually cares about (alumni and parents aka potential donors) find out about this and let the administration know that it’s not okay.

  24. jrosssilverm

    “For the 2017ers, however, financial aid will be capped at 32%, which is 32% of the lump-sum of all the money we’d get if everyone paid full tuition.”

    Hm, not sure if I get this. 
    It’d be helpful to know the current imaginary financial aid portion of the imaginary amount of revenue we would get form tuition if everyone was full pay. I’m trying to calculate it myself and I’m coming up with around 29.6%.

    1. not '13

       Upperclassmen pay more than underclassmen as part of the room&board package. That might have something to do with your numbers.

      1. '13

        I took that into account. I think it has to do with restricted/unrestricted support which I don’t totally understand

        1. not '13

           Hmmm. Financial aid will be rising by 15%, but the numbers for this year that I had heard were around 40%, not 29.6%… interesting disparity. Thanks for doing the math.

  25. Student '13

     “Given all the talk recently about including student input in significant administrative decisions (“on the financial aid side, I think it’s always good to consult more,” the President told the Argus), the timeline seems disconcerting” No, the timeline is pragmatic as this is a policy that never has been and hopefully never will be favored or approved by the students. This is by no means the last available solution to Wesleyan’s budget crisis, and the lack of warning from the administration is alarming. Why not alert students, parents, and alum that if X amount of money isn’t donated over the coming year the administration would have to consider cutting back financial aid? How about not investing in new buildings, new programs, etc. until we have the money to do so? Instituting a three-year graduation track is not making the tuition more affordable for the people who could not afford one year at Wesleyan. Such a program will still require over 100K – and therefore be beyond the reach of many students, fostering either an elitist campus or one where students graduate even more crippled by debt. So much for diversity university.

  26. Student '14

    Losing our need-blind status will not only result in the loss
    of fantastic potential students because of an inability to pay but also the loss of
    students who CAN pay full tutition but want to attend college with the most deserving students regardless of financial situation. This is a sad day for Wesleyan and Wesleyan’s future as well as a
    decision the Board should be ashamed of. Why did we spend money on an excessively marge fill color banner of the men’s lacrosse team instead of spending it on financial aid? Why Segways
    for public safety, hoards of excess construction paper in the ResLife office, keeping the lights on in locked buildings like the Religion Dept on weekends and nights, new jerseys for
    the football team, “upgrading” to Moodle?

    -A sad, frustrated, full-pay student

    1. '13

      As a student on financial aid I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly, but…

      First of all, I don’t think any of those things would make up for how much the financial aid budget is projected to grow, which would be something like $8 million. I think ‘upgrading’ to Moodle, for example, was actually a cost-cutting measure…

      Second, it hasn’t been specified how they will cap financial aid. It does sound like they are not trying to change the financial aid policies for the individual, that is, make changes to how they consider need. In other words they won’t reduce financial aid packages, which would probably be way more detrimental to Wesleyan’s socioeconomic diversity by losing the ‘best’ needy students to other schools. 
      The way it would likely (hopefully) be implemented is that something like 90% of the class would be aid-blind, so everything is the same for most of the class, which would be the ‘top’ candidates. The remaining 10% (possibly via the waitlist, if they want to be sneaky?) would be chosen on a ‘need-aware’ basis, that is, deciding to admit based on whether or not admitting that student would require the university to go over some pre-determined financial aid allotment. I’m guessing here, but this is based on what Roth said at the affordability forum.

      Here’s an article that explains how Reed dealt with this

    2. ME

      This is stupid.

      Wesleyan doesn’t have to take every “fantastic potential student.” It’s a private university. No one, despite their “fantastic potential,” is entitled to go to a private university. This is a basic fact of American life. If you cannot afford things, you cannot always get them. This is how capitalism works.

      Let’s abandon the notion that Wesleyan was ever truly “need-blind.” We evaluate students’ potential based on arbitrary metrics that are WHOLLY related to socioeconomic background.

      If you’re going to bemoan the fate of the “fantastic potential students” who can’t attend Wes, be similarly outraged about all the other American teens who wouldn’t even dream of applying because they dropped out at 15, never read at the appropriate grade level,  or couldn’t afford to pay for the cost of the SAT. It’s not like the inequality starts and stops at Wes.

      Finally, Moodle is free, the banner was paid for by parents, and the cost of the segways would barely make a dent in our annual budget.

  27. student '15

    What this turn of events  reflects is the sad fact that the university is going ahead with this decision unbeknownst to students — save for this post — and after most of us have left campus so we physically can’t be there to object. How cowardly.

  28. 80sAlum

    While I understand the University’s position, this make me quite sad.  Had Wes not been need blind when I was applying to colleges, I might not have applied, I might not have been admitted, I might not have received the aid and wonderful education and experience I got at Wesleyan.  I chose Wesleyan partly because the financial aid package it offered me was more generous than those I got from Swarthmore, Amherst, and Oberlin.  What more can we alums do to help?

    An alum from the 80’s

      1. 80sAlum

        Yes, I will give more than I usually donate each year if it means keeping Wes need blind!  I don’t have a $100 million, but I think there are probably a few alums capable of making transformative gifts like that.

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