NPR Report: Wesleyan Part of Larger Trend In Colleges’ Financial Woes

NPR has a story this week on how the financial cancer attacking many elite private colleges—that is, more money coming out than in—is affecting schools like Grinnell College, MIT, and, of course, Wes. The focus is on recent struggles over need-blind admissions. Grinnell seems to be an unusual case; despite not being in the same admissions tier as Wes (with an acceptance rate of 43%), it has enjoyed a rosy financial situation thanks in no small part to Warren Buffett sitting on its board. This has allowed it to pay 60% of its students’ costs, which is a higher rate than any other school except Harvard.

Even Grinnell, however, is showing the first signs of trouble, and says it has reached the point where it has had to switch some of its grants to loans.

“We don’t get in a room and say, ‘OK, do we give more aid here or do we give a raise to a professor over here?’ It’s never that stark, but behind the curtain, what’s happening is this tradeoff,” says Kington.

The towering monolith of MIT, meanwhile, told NPR it would never ever ever in a million years end need-blind admissions. “That’s one of our rock-solid principles. It’s sort of built into our DNA,” said MIT Chancellor Eric Grimson. Hopefully we will not have to see the unsustainable financial models and practices of these elite universities bring them, in 10 or 20 years, to the point Wesleyan is at now. NPR says the end of need-blind policies has sustained “some backlash” herea big understatement. In addition to President Roth, the article quotes a few dissenting students on campus—including Benny Docter ’14 and Leo Liu ’14, who coauthored an Argus editorial this semester:

Junior Leonid Liu, who is on full financial aid, says he came to Wesleyan because of its reputation as “Diversity University.”

“It’s kind of a slap in the face to students like me,” Liu says.

Equally upset is classmate Benny Docter, who gets no financial aid.

“I would never want to get into school because of my parents’ financial portfolios,” Docter says.

Raynard Kington also added that cutting corners does not solve the problem of an unsustainable trend. “So, OK, we cut landscaping this year. What do we cut next year? OK, let’s stop cleaning the windows. OK, what do we do next year? Well, pretty soon you go from cutting fat to cutting meat and bone,” he told NPR. Meanwhile, the article implies that Roth’s language on need-blind means that he opposes it on principle due to its hypocrisy, and that it would take a future “miracle” to end the conditions that make need-blind unsustainable.

What do you think of Roth’s comments in this article? Were we represented accurately? And do we need a hero in the form of a Warren Buffett-like donor to save us? Sound off in the comments. More on need-blind here, and more on Grinnell’s situation here.


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3 thoughts on “NPR Report: Wesleyan Part of Larger Trend In Colleges’ Financial Woes

  1. dlkjhajhfdjahklh

    so frustrated by how much better roth is playing the media game than people who actually think becoming explicitly classist isn’t okay

  2. Brian J. Glenn '91

    It is interesting that President Roth has finally acknowledged in this piece that up to 15% of applicants might be affected. While even just a student or two can impact the entire community with what they bring, a 15% shift can fundamentally alter the nature of Wesleyan’s student body.

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