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Plan endorses universal need-blind admission

Committee seeks to improve financial aid and increase international diversity

The Committee on Financial Aid endorsed need-blind admission for all undergraduate applicants as a long-term goal for the University in its interim report released Friday. As part of the strategic planning process, the committee also proposed reducing the student summer earnings expectation, simplifying the calculation of parent contribution and allowing international students to reapply for financial aid each year.

Former President Ruth Simmons decided the University’s current policy — need-blind admission for all U.S. applicants and need-aware admission for international, transfer and resumed undergraduate education students — in 2002, following years of tumultuous protests and contentious campus debate.

“I think the quality of students after going need-blind went up in terms of academic qualifications and the eagerness to do independent work,” said Ken Miller ’70 P’02, a member of the committee and professor of biology. “The perception among international students was that we were admitting principally people from very wealthy backgrounds,” he said.  “It’s not a cross-section of really bright and hardworking international students.”

The committee held several meetings with administrators, faculty members and undergraduates throughout the semester, including two open forums in November, said Alex Mechanick ’15, president of the student group Brown for Financial Aid and one of the committee’s undergraduate representatives. One of the forums was co-hosted by the Undergraduate Council of Students and the other by the Brown Conversation.

“There was a deep understanding and agreement that we should be accepting or rejecting applicants without regards to how wealthy they are,” Mechanick said.

The Herald previously reported that Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration, said implementing universal need-blind admission would be unsustainable under the current University budget.

The interim report specifies that universal need-blind admission is a “long-term commitment.”

Funding this proposal would require a capital campaign, said Jon Vu ’15, an undergraduate member of the committee.

“I’m optimistic that international sources will see this as a goal worth having, increasing chances for raising endowment funds,” Miller said. “If we raise enough, we can make admissions need-blind.”

The committee agreed that the policy would attract “an exceptionally talented, diverse, and global student community,” the report stated.

“RUE students are some of the most interesting students we have, with lots of life experience others can’t bring,” Miller said. “It widens up what goes on in the classroom, the laboratory and the University.”

The committee also discussed “taking care of the students who are already here,” said Jim Tilton, director of financial aid and chair of the committee. Listed under “immediate needs” were policy changes — including reducing the summer earnings expectation — the committee saw as “more doable” in the near future, Vu said.

Students have voiced concerns that the summer earnings expectation has prevented them from taking unpaid internships, Tilton said.

“The price tag for it was fairly modest and something the University could do right away,” Miller said.

Among other immediate needs listed was altering the way parental contribution is calculated in financial aid packages.

“We are looking at middle income and how we calculate income from middle-class families to make sure that we are treating people fairly,” Tilton said. The report provides an example of expecting up to a 15 percent contribution requirement on incomes up to $150,000.

Harvard requires a zero to 10 percent contribution from parents who earn between $65,000 and $150,000 annually, according to the university’s website. Their policy is “very simple” compared to Brown’s current policy, Miller said.

The report also listed allowing international students to reapply for financial aid each year as an immediate need. The committee predicted “this change would be effectively budget-neutral for the university scholarship budget,” the report stated.

Potential costs dictated which financial aid initiatives were chosen. Miller said the committee found the price of cutting loans “would be more substantial than reducing summer earnings expectations.”

Brown for Financial Aid is currently circulating a petition that suggests “admitting all students need-blind within 10 years” and “lowering the summer earnings expectation by at least $1,000.”

“BFA wanted to get behind concrete proposals that our membership think are most important to change and can achieve immediately,” Mechanick said.

The report is not a final recommendation, but a preliminary list of goals that “the larger strategic planning committee should consider,” Tilton said.


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