No Financial Aid? Welcome to College

Despite lots of rhetoric among college administrators about keeping college affordable for low-income students while at the same time jacking up tuition, the Wall Street Journal reports that, no, this year a potential student’s ability to pay tuition, all of it, is going to matter a lot when colleges determine who gets to attend.

According to an article by Jane Kim:

Thanks to the recent recession, more colleges are giving seats to wealthier students—especially international or wait-listed applicants—who are willing to pay full freight. Last fall, Williams College began admitting more international students who could pay full tuition, and will reintroduce loans into its financial-aid packages this year. Middlebury College and Wake Forest University began looking at wait-listed students’ financial status as a factor in admissions last year. And Tufts University, which was able to admit all students on a “need-blind” basis—where they pledge to admit students regardless of their ability to pay—in 2007 and 2008, has reverted to being “need-aware” for some applicants—meaning that it takes an applicant’s financial status into account.

With college endowments not yet fully recovered from the recession and a greater number of needier students, many schools are starting to rein in their generosity. The top students still will be heavily recruited, experts say, but as schools face greater financial strains, borderline applicants with fatter wallets stand a better chance of getting in.

According to the article, about 5 percent of students applying for college this year might actually be able to improve their chances of getting admitted by simply not filling out an application for financial aid at all.

That policy isn’t going to work for schools that have need-blind admissions. But at many schools need blind doesn’t apply for people on the waitlist or potential international students.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer