Open Letter to Colleges Changing to Need Sensitive Admissions

There has been a lot of buzz around colleges moving away from need blind admissions. Initial reaction seems to vilify these colleges and universities, but when you scratch the surface, being need aware may turn out better for low-income students if colleges can now meet 100% of demonstrated need.  I wrote a version of this email to the Dean of Admissions at Wesleyan University, last spring when they announced their decision to become “need aware.” I now offer it to other colleges who are struggling to make college affordable for students.

Dear Need Aware College, 

I just heard another story on NPR describing how many colleges are deciding to move to a need aware admissions policy. Obviously, everyone wishes that all colleges could be need blind and meet 100% of demonstrated need, but when a college realizes they can no longer sustain both policies, I applaud those who choose to continue to meet 100% of demonstrated need (without counting Parent Plus Loans as “meeting need”).

Having worked with many students who have been admitted to colleges that do not meet need, I can assure you that when this happens, students feel even worse than being denied out right. For low income students, being reminded that they really cannot afford their dream, only makes the transition to college worse.

I suspect that this practice will allow you to provide even better financial aid for those who need it in order to compete with your peers.  

I am sure you are getting a lot of emails and calls from students and alums who may be misguided in their understanding of the impact of this policy, but as someone who works with mostly working class students, I applaud your move and think it will benefit students long term.

I am always impressed when colleges are honest and transparent about their admissions process. I will continue to encourage my students to apply to your institution because I know it is committed to funding all students it admits. In fact, I imagine that with this new policy, you might be able to increase the number of low & middle income students on campus that don’t have to take out additional loans because now you can offer them competitive financial aid packages. 


Robert W. Andrews


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