“Credit Positive” Actions at Wesleyan University

Late last month Wesleyan University announced plans to end its decades-long policy of need-blind admissions.

The new plan will begin for the class of 2014. Many students and advocates object to the new policy but, according to a Reuters article by Hilary Russ in The Hartford Courant:

Moody’s Investors Service on Monday suggested Wesleyan University’s shift away from its admission policy of accepting students regardless of their financial means could be the model for other small private colleges.

“These actions…are credit positive for Wesleyan, as well as other selective private colleges that could look to this model as an avenue for growing tuition revenue in an increasingly difficult higher education market burdened by stiffening tuition price resistance and rising student loan burden,” Moody’s said.

Sigh.

The fact that the decision is financially good doesn’t have much to do with whether or not it’s actually a positive or necessary development for elite colleges to take in order to preserve their intellectual quality.

From Moody’s perspective, in fact, it would be “credit positive” for Wesleyan to offer as little financial aid as it possibly can while still maintaining current enrollment practices.

American colleges first began to offer need-blind admissions, which admit students without regard to financial resources, in the 1980s in response to student demands for more inclusive and equitable polices. Wesleyan students protested the university administration’s attempt to remove the need blind policy in 1982 and 1992. In both cases Wesleyan backed down.

Tuition apparently made up 63.5 percent of Wesleyan’s operating revenue last year, according to the article.

Wesleyan’s enjoys an endowment of $601 million, significantly lower than comparable institutions.

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