The necessity of need-blind: Encouraging the College to depart from its need-aware policy for international students

Beginning with the class of 2015, the College has limited its need-blind admission process to domestic applicants, using a need-aware process for prospective international students. This policy change was prompted by a decline in the College’s endowment after the 2008 financial crisis. By 2014, however, the endowment had returned to pre-recession levels, and it is currently the largest it has ever been. As a result, we at the Record strongly encourage the College to reinstate need-blind admission for international applicants.

As the College increasingly bills itself as a global institution that prides itself on its commitment to diversity, it seems contradictory that the College has yet to return to a need-blind policy. The College’s alums, donors, investments and activities are all global in their scope; thus it follows that the College should also not bar any international students from attending because of their inability to pay tuition. If diversity, inclusion and global citizenship are truly at the forefront of the College’s agenda, then it is only reasonable that the College ensure that all international students – regardless of their financial standings – have an equal chance to receive a Williams education.

While we commend the Offices of Admission and Financial Aid for their continued dedication to making the College affordable for both international and domestic students, we cannot ignore the fact that the enactment of the need-aware policy in 2010 has led to an actual decrease in the proportion of international students receiving financial aid. In 2010-2011, 80 percent of international students were receiving aid, compared to this year’s 58 percent. Whether this is a reflection of a decrease in willingness to admit international students requiring aid or that international students who need aid are being dissuaded from applying in the first place, this statistic is troubling.

Furthermore, while some have argued that increasing the financial aid budget could potentially lead to cuts elsewhere, we encourage the College to evaluate potential sources of budget surpluses. With the endowment’s renewed health, the College should consider using its additional finances to offset increased financial aid costs.

We also recognize that such a policy would be ineffective if recruitment strategies are not inclusive. As such, we believe that a need-blind process can neither involve other proxies for estimating financial need nor produce more limited recruiting strategies targeting wealthier students. This would not only skew the application pool, but also allows the College to create the illusion of student diversity without having to provide the financial aid that is needed to truly construct a geographically, socio-economically and racially diverse student body.

It should be emphasized that simply highlighting the inequities of need-aware admission is not enough. While we praise the members of College Council and International Club for passing a resolution that asks the College to reinstate its need-blind admission process for international students, a similar resolution was passed in 2014, and no changes were made to the policy. We believe that it is now time for action.

Seeing that the College is in a state of transition, we hope that we can finally put this issue to rest. We call upon the Board of Trustees to take seriously and respond to the wide-ranging student demand for need-blind admission. We wish for the College’s incoming president, Maud Mandel, to address this issue upon her arrival and work diligently to extend need-blind admission to international students.

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