american universities: no longer need-blind?

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The New York Times recently published an article on how the economic recession has made it easier for wealthier applicants to get into university.

“In the bid for a fat envelope this year, it may help, more than usual, to have a fat wallet. Facing fallen endowments and needier students, many colleges are looking more favorably on wealthier applicants as they make their admissions decisions this year.”

This recent trend in admissions makes me wonder if I would have been accepted to the universities I applied to for undergraduate in 2003. At that time, my dad was unemployed and my mom was a Headstart teacher. I applied to about eight private liberal arts colleges, knowing that admissions was need-blind and financial aid was based almost purely on need. I was accepted to all eight universities and received full funding from all the schools, except for my top choice: New York University. They expected me to pay $20,000 worth of tuition out of pocket.

Nevertheless, this was my dream school, so I decided to defer a year to think about it, apply to more schools, and study abroad in Panama. I ultimately decided to attend  a university in my hometown: University of Washington. At the time, it didn’t seem like the most glamorous option, but as a state resident and with scholarships, it was practically free.

I received a fantastic education at the University of Washington and am really happy ended up here, but sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I went to school in New York.

I think students should be able to attend the university of their choice, regardless of cost. However, with the current state of the economy, this seems even less plausible than when I applied for undergraduate. According to NYT, “[T]he inevitable result is that needier students will be shifted down to the less expensive and less prestigious institutions.”

However, this does not mean they can’t get a good education. My experience is a case in point.

Photo by Flickr user phxpma (busy for a while)

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