Need-Blind Admissions? Really?

Jul 25 2014

Sure, I understand that correlation is not causality, but still, the below figures do make one pause. Why do students not needing financial aid stand a much higher chance of getting into the College than people who can't pay full freight? Are they smarter? Does the supposedly need-blind Admissions Office peek at the financials just a teensy bit when deciding between two similar candidates whom to admit?

A loyal reader asked these questions when he noted that the College had boasted this year that 70% of all applicants had requested financial aid; then, a few weeks later, Dean of Admissions Maria Laskaris '84 revealed that only 45% of admitted students were to receive aid (actually the link says 46%, but Dean Laskaris kindly updated the figure for me). Using the College's numbers, let's do the math on this past admissions season's figures:

Applicants for admission: 19,235
Applicants asking for aid (70%): 13,465
Applicants not asking for aid (30%): 5,770
Admitted students receiving aid (45%): 999
Admitted students not receiving aid (55%): 1,221

Chances a student requesting aid will be accepted (999/13,465): 7.4%
Chances a student not requesting aid will be accepted (1,221/5,770): 21.2%

Hmmm. If you don't need financial aid, you have almost three times the chance of being admitted to the College as compared to a student requesting aid.

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Stingy With Financial Aid

Jul 24 2014

The other day we noted that the number of students receiving financial aid from the College had dropped in recent years from 51% to 45% of the student body -- part of the Kim adminstration's "soak the students to feed the staff" balanced budget initiative. Several readers wrote in to ask how we are doing versus the other Ivies. Here are the figures for Dartmouth, Penn, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard:

Ivy Financial Aid 2014.jpg

Not only are we again worst-in-show in the financial aid sweepstakes, but we have fallen off the previous trendline that related financial aid to endowment/student: by that latter measure we are still in fourth position in the Ivies behind HYP, and we used to be #4 in giving financial aid, too. Not any more.

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Shall We Just Ban Alcohol on Campus?

Jul 23 2014

A thoughtful observer of the College scene has read this space's reporting on sexual assault. His reaction has been voiced by other correspondents in the past:

Joe, You noted in the first paragraph: "Yes, alcohol is always part of the equation . . ." [of sexual assault]

It is illegal in the U.S. (and in New Hampshire specifically) to consume alcohol prior to age 21. If Dartmouth College and its students honor this very simple, concrete law of the land, what effect would that have in reducing the incidence of sexual assault and rape on campus?

This illustrates why "the age of majority" makes sense, and deserves to be respected and enforced: Until you are 21, don't drink at Dartmouth. If consuming alcohol as a minor in our campus community and under our institutional responsibility is more important to you than following that one simple law, then please go to school elsewhere. As an Ivy League student, plenty of other places will take you.

What to say about this position, an eminently logical one? Alcohol does have myriad negative effects on life at Dartmouth, and if the penalty for consuming it were expulsion, drinking would probably end at the College. Shall we bring back Prohibition?

To start, we should note that only a severe penalty like the expulsion of students could work to rein in student drinking. In the past decade, Jim Wright's administration rang up hundreds of students on College discipline for underage consumption, and now-retired Hanover Chief of Police Nick Giaccone's force arrested many hundreds more. Keystone Cop scenes of officers chasing Keystone-consuming students through the bushes played out over and over again on campus. To no effect at all, of course, except to give students disciplinary or criminal records that impeded their efforts to be accepted at grad schools.

We should also be cognizant of the fact that excessive student drinking has been decried in virtually every society from Ancient Greece (Plato's Symposium means "Drinking Party") to the present day, and certainly so at Dartmouth ever since Eleazar Wheelock supposedly arrived in Hanover with a barrel of five hundred gallons of New England rum. In 1772, student drinking was such that Wheelock wrote to John Sargent, who ran the Norwich-Hanover ferry (and a tavern, too),

I charitably hope ...yt yo will henceforth Sell no Rum nor any Spirits to any Studt ... belonging to ys College or School or to any Cook, Servt or Laborer ... without a Written order undr my hand or one of ye Tutors-& pray sir, be so good as to signify to me by a Line ...your complyce with my Desire ...

Wheelock Rum.jpg

The imprecation didn't work then, and it has not done so since. And frankly, as a society, I don't think we much care. In some unspoken way, we accept that students on campus drink, though via our weak laws we tut-tut about the practice. Perhaps alcoholic excesses are our own form of Rumspringa, the period of time when Amish youth are allowed to depart from the strict norms of their faith, prior to taking vows to lead a restrained and observant life. In addition to working hard in Hanover, students have a chance to purge themselves of wild feelings, doing so in the knowledge that after Commencement the hard work of a responsible life begins.

I can't come up with a better explanation than that one for an unstated tolerance that goes back centuries. Perhaps my correspondent is inspired by Utopian sentiments, and he is willing to harshly enforce them? Not me. A conservative approach would be to accept the world as it is, and have the serenity to accept what cannot be changed -- while scolding the students for their naughty, naughty behavior.

Addendum: The element left out of the above argument is the new-found abuse of alcohol by women students, with obviously pernicious effects. Responding to that development might change the debate.

Addendum: A reader writes in:

There is one important consideration you omit. By turning a blind eye to underage drinking, we send the message that attendance at an elite institution allows you to selectively obey the law. It is at least worth asking to what extent the proliferation of insider trading and other lawbreaking in the financial world has been nourished by the attitude that the privileged are somehow above the law.

Addendum: As does a wit:

The problem is that the culture of drinking got established when there were different sociological facts than exist today, i.e., there are now women at Dartmouth. The solution is that all women should be required to take a daily dose of Antabuse. The assault problem is thereby mostly solved.

Addendum: And a veteran of the social wars:

Here is a question that I think begs an answer at Dartmouth and everywhere else: What is the driving force behind large numbers of today's college students routinely drinking themselves into oblivion? What are they running from? What cultural forces are in play? I speak as someone who has certainly imbibed my fair share of cocktails through the years -- but I simply do not understand what is fun about throwing up, passing out, making a fool of yourself and awakening with no memory of the night before. Have even heard that it is not unusual for some of these kids to wet their beds after passing out. Whaaaat? To me, the larger question is not about the relevant legalities or choosing to drink vs. choosing to abstain -- my question is: Why the increase in continuous excessive drinking? In my day, this was a one or two time event -- i.e. a learning experience -- something that you never wanted to repeat.

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