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Higher Education and the African American Experience

NY Times Report: In Hard Times Colleges Turn To Wealthier Applicants

April 7th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance

While many of the nation’s wealthiest universities have pledged to maintain the generous financial aid policies that they have adopted in recent years, a growing number of somewhat less well-funded schools are responding to the current recession by turning to their wealthiest applicants.

According to a recent New York Times report, filed by staff  writer Kate Zernike, a number of U.S. colleges are turning increasingly to those applicants who can afford to pay full tuition and fees, all in order to pre-empt believe could well be a meteoric rise in financial aid expenditures.

This may seem ironic, given the falling economic fortunes and great financial need of so many American families, but colleges are struggling to explain that need-aware admissions (so to speak) does not necessarily spell the end of need-blind admissions. Many of those colleges who have conceded an interest in enrolling greater numbers of students who pay their own way also maintain that these policies will not impact students who are accepted as part of their regular freshman admissions pool. In other words, those applicants — mostly high school seniors — who are accepted for regular fall enrollment will have been evaluated with no weight given to their ability to pay. At many of these same schools, though, the need-blind admissions policy will not be applied to students who are evaluated for admission off the waitlist or as a transfer applicants.

What does this mean for Black applicants? Well, African Americans tend to enroll disproportionately at 2-year colleges, many with the intention of transferring to 4-year institutions later on. Many students do this in able to make college more affordable. Such students will, then be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to tranfer admissions, because of their need for financial aid. African American students who have an interest in attending a private college or university would be well advised to apply to their favorite 4-year institutions right out of high school (since their financial need will matter less or not at all if they are evaluated as part of the regular freshman admissions pool). Keep in mind this little known fact: The generous financial aid packages that many private institutions make available to their regular (non-transfer, non-waitlist) admitted students often make the overall cost of attending a private 4-year college cheaper than the cost of attending a public 4-year college. Also, keep in mind that even after enrolling at a private (or public) 4-year institution, it is possible to take summer courses at a community college in order to accelerate your time until graduation. Although this is not ideal, it is possible to save up to an entire year’s worth of tuition by satisfying a significant number of your core requirements (the required courses outside your major) at a community college, and then transferring the credits.

To read Kate Zernike’s article, “Paying in Full as the Ticket into Colleges,” click HERE.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African American Students, African Americans, Black Students, Current Events, Financial Aid, Higher Education

2 Responses

  1. SjP

    I caught the end of a spot on television the other day that reported that little known fact that it is often cheaper to go to a private institution than a state institution because of the level of financial aid available. But, as you correctly state in this post, the majority of African-Americans will find themselves attending 2-year institutions because of thier inability to pay the rising tuition costs at state institutions and financial assistance become leaner and leaner. I am hope and pray that these lean times will not deter them from pursuing a degree even if it means that they must start at a 2-year school.

  2. Ajuan Mance

    I share you concern. Now more than ever, a college education is key, but the sticker shock of private colleges scares many potential students away, and even the idea of a community college education may seem like a indulgence in lean economic times.