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George Washington University Put Less-Affluent Students on Wait List
The school told applicants it did not weigh their ability to pay, when it actually prioritized prospective students more able to afford tuition. By Benjamin Freed
Comments () | Published October 21, 2013
George Washington University’s “need-blind” admissions process, in which prospective students are considered regardless of their ability to pay the school’s $60,000 annual price tag, turns out to have been rather cognizant of applicants’ financial status.

For years, the school admitted on Friday, admissions officers wait-listed hundreds of students who cannot pay the full tuition while accepting better-off applicants who would have otherwise been placed on the waiting list, according to the GW Hatchet, the Foggy Bottom university’s campus newspaper.

The process affects up to 10 percent of the 22,000 kids who apply to GW every year, even though the school had proudly advertised its supposedly “need-blind” system on its website for years. The admissions page was scrubbed over the weekend to remove the sentence, “Requests for financial aid do not affect admissions decisions.”

University administrators, who in recent years boasted that GW was offering “need-blind” admissions, now say acknowledging a prospective student’s ability to pay is better for the university’s budget and for the applicants who need a greater amount of financial support, according to the Hatchet. GW’s endowment is $1.37 billion; Northwestern University, which makes “need-blind” admissions decisions, has $7.1 billion in the bank.

The news comes a year after the school suffered embarrassment when it admitted to sending juiced statistics about its freshmen class to US News and World Report. Juking the numbers got the university bounced from US News’s 2013 college rankings, and was followed by the retirement of then-admissions dean Kathryn Napper.

UPDATE, 10/22/13: In a statement released yesterday evening, Laurie Koehler, GW's new senior associate provost for enrollment management, says the university hasn't changed the way it reviews prospective students' need, it's just being more transparent about it since Koehler started her job in May.

"I believe using the phrase 'need-aware' better represents the totality of our practices than the phrase 'need blind,'" Koehler says. "It is important to note that consideration of need occurs at the very end of the admissions process.

"The first review of applications is need blind and admissions committees recommend candidates for admission with no knowledge of need. Some admissions professionals use the phrase 'read need blind' to describe a process like ours where the admissions committees do not have access to the amount of need of an applicant."

Koehler adds that GW's practices allow the school to give more generous aid packages to needier students without going over-budget. More than 60 percent of students receive grants from the university, she says.

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  • GW

    The University had the following to say:

    Today’s story in the independent student newspaper the GW
    Hatchet may have given the impression that the university’s consideration of
    student need in its admissions process has changed. The university’s
    admissions practices have not changed with regard to how financial aid requests
    are factored in. What has changed is the new leadership in enrollment
    management. What we are trying to do is increase the transparency of the
    admissions process.

    I believe using the phrase “need aware” better represents the totality of our
    practices than the phrase “need blind.” It is important to note that
    consideration of need occurs at the very end of the admissions process.
    The first review of applications is need blind and admissions committees
    recommend candidates for admission with no knowledge of need. Some
    admissions professionals use the phrase “read need blind” to describe a process
    like ours where the admissions committees do not have access to the amount of
    need of an applicant.

    The Hatchet story suggests that the university’s practice of need aware admissions
    automatically disadvantages students with need. Quite the contrary, our
    need aware admissions policy enables the university to provide more attractive
    aid packages for students with financial need while staying within our aid
    budget. More than 60 percent of our students receive grants from the
    university.

    The George Washington University is committed to the goal of making a George
    Washington education accessible to all who qualify for admission. We have
    always said that one of our competitive disadvantages is not having the
    resources to undergird student aid. The university has significantly
    increased student aid under the leadership of President Steven Knapp, who made
    this his top priority on day one of his presidency. This includes launching
    the Power and Promise Initiative to increase philanthropic giving for student
    aid. We will continue to work to clarify our admissions practices and to
    recruit a strong and diverse student body.

    Senior Associate Provost for
    Enrollment Management Laurie Koehler was featured in a Q&A with GW Today: http://gwtoday.gwu.edu/how-are...

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