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Editorial: Calling for financial fairness

Under current policy, international, transfer and Resumed Undergraduate Education students are admitted on a need-aware basis, in which ability to pay is considered in deciding whether students should be admitted. While financial aid is a familiar issue, as President Christina Paxson begins to shape her agenda, now is the time to bring it to the forefront of campus dialogue. We strongly advocate making full need-blind admission the administration and student body’s top priority during the coming years.

Last Friday, Paxson emailed members of the Brown community with interim reports whose recommendations could ultimately shape her agenda. These recommendations included attracting and supporting “an excellent, diverse and global student body” and developing “signature academic initiatives that contribute in significant ways to challenges that confront society.” But fulfilling these objectives is simply not possible without making our community accessible to the multitude of students discouraged from or unable to apply to the university because of their need-aware status.

In its interim report, the Committee on Financial Aid concluded that “Brown’s reputation and quality of community are diminished to the extent that we do not make ourselves fully available to the best and brightest of students.” The current policy creates a dichotomy between need-blind and need-aware students, which is detrimental to internal student body relations, the University’s global reputation and the diversity of the community as a whole. Being need-aware for select groups punishes them for circumstances beyond their control. As a result, the community suffers from a lack of diversity that curtails student discussion.

The report concluded recommending a need-blind admissions policy that extends to all students. Suggestions for implementing this have been researched and presented by Brown for Financial Aid, a student-run organization committed to the establishment of need-blind admissions for all students and increased transparency on Brown’s financial aid policy. BFA has issued a set of recommendations that include an “aid-centered capital campaign” that would encourage donors to fund scholarships, as well increasing the amount of the Annual Fund “internally earmarked for financial aid.” Innovative fundraising drives and working in tandem both with current students and alums to generate ideas and support for stronger aid programs could be strong new pathways to finding a solution to Brown’s current need-blind quandary.

This commitment is essential when viewed in the context of Brown’s role as an Ivy League institution. Harvard, Princeton and Yale all extend need-blind admission to international students, while UPenn and Cornell offer limited financial aid. We hope endowment and not intent is what constrains Brown. But the cost of a need-aware policy is significant. Because Brown has not dedicated the resources to helping certain types of students, it cannot continue attracting the best and brightest that those groups have to offer. This results in several consequences for the University: lost potential students, future alums less willing to give back to the school and a tarnished image as an institution unable to achieve the ideals it espouses. Certainly, it will be more damaging than not renovating dormitories.

We need commitment and action from the administration to create an inclusivefinancial aid policy. If Brown wants to improve upon the diverse, equal, passionate community it has cultivated for so long. Our education should and must be accessible to everyone. Otherwise, everyone, regardless of financial situation, loses out.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Dan Jeon, and its members, Mintaka Angell, Samuel Choi, Nicholas Morley and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to


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