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Amherst to issue $100 million in taxable bonds for working capital

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Replies to: Amherst to issue $100 million in taxable bonds for working capital

  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Being need-blind doesn't mean that you want to (or could afford to) enroll an entire class of financial aid students. In fact, virtually all need-blind schools are able to be need blind because they know they can count on a consistent percentage of full-pay customers year in and year out. For Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore, it's been roughly 50% to 58% full pay for the last decade. I assure you that, if any of the admissions deans at these three schools surprised the board with a freshman class with 70% qualifying for financial aid, the [stuff] would hit the fan because the budgets would be blown to smithereens.

    Wealthy students are favored in so many ways. Higher SAT scores from better coaching and more sittings. Better high schools. Fancier ECs. More likely to be early decision. More likely to be a recruited athlete (overwhelmingly white at elite schools). More likely to be a legacy. Williams, Amherst, and Swarhtmore have had the luxury of putting a thumb on the scale to favor lower income students. Not many schools have that luxury. If Amherst, for example, need to slow the growth in financial aid a little bit, it would be pretty easy to just lift that thumb off the scale just a teensy little bit and they would automatically enroll a wealthier class. Just weight SATs a little more.
  • pan1956pan1956 Registered User Posts: 528 Member
    If I am not mistaken, I think that you suggest that those who can afford to pay full ticket are as a group more qualified candidates, whether because of better opportunities, or having The New Yorker rather than The National Enquirer on the coffee table at home, or going to better schools, or not having to work during the summer, or even, heaven forbid I allude to it, being better endowed in a purely genetic sense. And then I think the "thumb on the scale" that you refer to is the additional weight that aid applicants are afforded in order to compensate for the above advantages and to "level the playing field" so to speak. So in fact, you suggest that it is aid applicants who are as a group favored, in the sense that, all other factors being equal, the aid applicant gets the benefit of the "thumb on the scale" and the full ticket applicant does not.

    Am I correct in my interpretation of your post? Because, unlike many others, your posts are thoughtful, I value your opinion.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    No. I'm not making a value judgement that wealthier applicants are "better" applicants, just that they measure better when applying certain criteria.

    I'm just saying that an admission office can nudge enrollment in any given direction by selecting which attributes to weight more heavily. Weight SATs more heavily and you will get a whiter and wealthier freshman class. Weight ethnic diversity or first generation college more heavily and you'll get a class that, on average, needs more financial aid. And, so on and so forth. Or, for an extreme example, weight polo or dressage riding heavily and you'll get a very wealthy class. Same thing if you weight squash, lacrosse, or crew. When was the last time you saw an inner city public high school with a crew team? Weight after school jobs bagging groceries more heavily and you tilt the class in a different direction. Admissions Deans are professionals. They know how to get the class they are told to get.

    Most colleges cannot get as many full-pay customers as they want. That's why their strategic plans call for efforts to "reduce the tuition discount rate", which is a fancy way of saying attract more wealthy customers. Maybe they'll offer "merit aid" -- a $10,000 discount to a customer who pays $37,000 cash after the discount.

    Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore (and certainly HYPSM) could enroll an entire class of full-pay students if they wanted to. They don't do that for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that best students don't want to attend colleges with no diversity.

    Just to be clear, I do not expect the top three LACs to make signficant changes in admissions (other than increasing enrollment by 100 students, which is a pretty major change and probably getting rid of need-blind admissions for internationals, which is costly). I think they may nudge the scale a little bit to try to offset the increased cost of financial aid during the recession.

    I think that many colleges will have to abandon totally need-blind admissions and go partially need-aware. There just isn't going to be the money for limitless finanicial aid.
  • pan1956pan1956 Registered User Posts: 528 Member
    In their recent communications and announcements pertinent to the budget process, most of the schools treat financial aid as off limits, almost sacred. They tell us that they will cut capital investment, freeze salaries, freeze hiring etc, but never ever touch the sacrosanct financial aid budget. Is this disingenuous? Are they attempting to mislead in order to maintain the stream of applications?
  • JW MullerJW Muller Registered User Posts: 432 Member
    I do not expect the top three LACs to make signficant changes in admissions other than... getting rid of need-blind admissions for internationals.

    I think they may nudge the scale a little bit..[and] that many colleges will have to abandon totally need-blind admissions and go partially need-aware.

    But Amherst just last year issued a press release boasting that their Board of Trustees voted for a need-blind international admissions policy. Would they rescind this policy without a public statement?

    A nudge here and a nudge there and you no longer have a needs-blind admission policy. Will admissions committees surreptitiously have a needs-aware policy, while falsely proclaiming themselves needs-blind?
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Is this disingenuous?

    No. I'm sure they are all hoping they won't have to make moves on financial aid. As a practical matter, the thing that will put a college out of business is a lack of students, so they are going to have to do whatever it takes to enroll a full class. Trust me, I don't think anybody's financial aid budgets will be going down next year. Many schools will have to go need-aware just to try to contain the growth in financial aid.

    BTW, nothing is off limits if you don't have the money.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    A nudge here and a nudge there and you no longer have a needs-blind admission policy. Will admissions committees surreptitiously have a needs-aware policy, while falsely proclaiming themselves needs-blind?

    We are in territory with terminology that has squishy definitions. The answer to your question depends on what exactly you mean by need-blind. I believe colleges do precisely that already. Although I don't believe they are lying when they say they don't. It's a gray area. I mean, they know the socio-ec status of their applicants. They even apply socio-ec tags based on zip code data.

    IMO, all "need-blind" schools are very much need-aware when it comes to the composition of the class as a whole. They have targets. They have financial aid budgets. They rely on enrolling 50% of each class with full-pay customers to hit those budgets, even though they have standing board authorization to increase aid expenditures as necessary to meet need.

    As for need-blind admissions for internationals, I expect Wiliams and Amherst to both back off this policy after this year's admissions cycle. They are only doing it to compete with each other. At a certain point, it's an arms race they can't afford. They'll draw the line in the sand at the no-loan policy and give up the need-blind international territory. Williams only started it because they weren't able to recruit internationals. Even advertising the need-blind policy for several years, they are only matching Amherst's and Swarthmore's international numbers -- and spending twice as much on international aid to do it. There's an ethical issue here too. Should internationals be receiving aid at a higher rate than students from the US?
  • onemoremomonemoremom Registered User Posts: 405 Member
    "Williams was the first. Not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because they were getting clobbered in trying to attract internationals. Even with the need-blind policy, they only enroll the same percentage of internationals as Amherst and Swarthmore .." (#9)

    "Williams only started it because they weren't able to recruit internationals. Even advertising the need-blind policy for several years, they are only matching Amherst's and Swarthmore's international numbers..." (#23)

    interesteddad: If only your self-assurance were matched by the actual truth.

    From each college's Common Data Sets published on their websites -- first year international students:
    Amherst Swarthmore Williams
    1999-2000 (no data) 28/368 = 7.6% 35/544 = 6.4%
    2000-2001 (no data) 16/367 = 4.4% 31/527 = 5.9%
    2001-2002 (no data) ("page not found") 23/520 = 4.4%
    2002-2003 (no data) 23/371 = 6.2% 34/537 = 6.3%
    2003-2004 36/413 = 6.3% 23/368 = 6.3% 33/533 = 6.2%
    2004-2005 26/427 = 6.1% 21/366 = 5.7% 31/532 = 5.8%
    2005-2006 29/431 = 6.7% 28/389 = 7.2% 32/536 = 6.0%
    2006-2007 26/433 = 6.0% 22/370 = 5.9% 38/534 = 7.1%
    2007-2008 37/474 = 7.8% 28/365 = 7.7% 47/540 = 8.7%
    2008-2009 (no data) 28/372 = 7.5% 46/540 = 8.5%


    As the figures clearly show, Williams was hardly "getting clobbered' or not "able to recruit internationals." And after instituting need-blind international financial aid as a matter of institutional policy -- for the express purpose of increasing the enrollment of international students to as much as 10% of the student body -- Williams is clearly enrolling a larger percentage of international students than / exceeding the international numbers of Amherst and Swarthmore.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Graph showing historic data on international enrollment at selected elite colleges and universities:

    [url=http://i218.****/albums/cc14/hwc_1000/swat-intl-1.gif?t=1235575216]Link to graph[/url]

    I believe that financial aid to internationals may be an area of belt-tightening.
  • JessephenJessephen Registered User Posts: 132 Junior Member
    The 2003-2004 percentages are wrong for Amherst and Williams
    Amherst is over 8% for that year and Williams is 6.1 %. I did not do the math on all the others but if the proportions are accurate then the percentages a incorrect for at least that year. But I don't really see a huge difference between the two.
  • JessephenJessephen Registered User Posts: 132 Junior Member
    From some reason couldn't edit my above post. Should have said "the percentages are incorrect". What I meant was that for a single year the difference between the precentage in internationals doesn't seem that significant. Presumably the next year it could be different.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Williams is clearly enrolling a larger percentage of international students than / exceeding the international numbers of Amherst and Swarthmore.

    Really? Not according the actual enrollment numbers. See the graph I linked. Williams is matching Swarthmore and Amhersts intl numbers, but spending heavily to do so. Over $6.1 million in international aid this year. An average of over $43,000 for each of the 142 internationals. According the Common Data Set, Williams only has one full-pay international enrolled. 20% of all aid dollars at Williams are going to internationals who make up 7.2% of the enrollment.
  • onemoremomonemoremom Registered User Posts: 405 Member
    "Really? Not according the actual enrollment numbers."

    Yes, "really" -- according to the "actual enrollment numbers" directly from the colleges' Common Data Sets (CDS) -- official documents each college files.

    And as noted above, the figures on the "graph" you link to have been pointed out by Jessephen to be "wrong" -- so much for the validity of the skewed data you're trying to use in this case. You yourself are so fond of official statistics such as those from each college's CDS -- but in this case, because they point to an "inconvenient truth" (or one you'd rather not acknowledge) those statistics aren't valid (or useful to you), I suppose. But not surprising in the least, given the history of your bias against presenting truthful facts as far as Williams is concerned.

    Tut, tut.
  • onemoremomonemoremom Registered User Posts: 405 Member
    Jessephen: Please pardon my typo -- for Amherst in 2003-04 the number reported on their CDS is 26 (not 36) resulting in the percentage of 6.3%. And 33/533 = 6.19% rounded to 6.2% for Williams that year.

    You're right that there's not a huge difference.
  • onemoremomonemoremom Registered User Posts: 405 Member
    Jessephen: Please pardon my typo -- for Amherst in 2003-04 the number reported on their CDS is 26 (not 36) resulting in the percentage of 6.3%. And 33/533 = 6.19% rounded to 6.2% for Williams that year.

    You're right that there's not a huge difference.

    And about the graph linked to in #25 -- I misunderstood your reference, Jessephen. I apologize.

    Upon viewing the graph (which appears to indicate total enrollment, rather than first year's as listed in the CDS data above), my comment still stands: it does not show Williams "getting clobbered" or even "only matching" or enrolling "the same percentage" of internationals as other institutions.
This discussion has been closed.