Class of 2013 Admitted; Admissions Grapples With Economy

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Swarthmore has offered 959 students a spot in the Class of 2013, and hopes to yield a class of 390 from those offers. The college received the second-highest number of applications ever—5,574—a drop of around 10% from last year, but “still a 34 percent improvement from four years ago,” according to Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90.

The decrease “was even across the board… we were up in terms of Hispanic/Latino applications, which mirrors the demographic trend. As the 17 year old population starts to decrease, there’s a big decrease in the Northeast and Midatlantic and an increase in the South and West… we want to reach out to where population growth is happening, so that’s an encouraging sign.”

The college continues to look for a diverse class. Fifty-two percent of all accepted students identify as domestic students of color, with Asian Americans making up 18 percent of the admitted class, Latino/a students 18 percent, African Americans 15 percent and Native Americans one percent. Other demographics are available at the college press release.

There were a record number of Early Decision applications—497—with 166 students admitted early decision, or 42% of the class. Bock explained that “every year we lose a handful of early decision families who feel that they can’t afford it… usually that number is two to three, and I thought it might double this year, but it did not. This year it was three, last year it was three.”

Bock added that “a higher percentage of our pool applied for financial aid… 72 percent of this year’s applicants are requesting fin-aid assistance, 69 percent requested that last year, and we know more people are going to check that box this year… we don’t yet know how many will qualify.” Early Decision applicants also requested financial aid in higher numbers than last year, “but essentially the same number qualified.”

Bock continued, “because of the economy, it’s hard to say what the yield will be… we’re committed to financial aid, we’ve actually upped the financial aid budget to accommodate what the extra need might be… but what will the tolerance be for a family’s ability to pay their fair share?” An uncertain financial future might be a factor in students choosing to attend public institutions rather than Swarthmore.

With the economy so present in thoughts about the admitted students, how is it affecting the day-to-day operations of the admissions office? “We’re looking at travel, specifically for professional conferences as opposed to recruiting. It’s never been more important to recruit and now is not the time to pull back… so instead of sending everyone to one national and one regional conference, I might just send them to one regional conference.”

A related cut-back is in dues to regional professional associations. “We maintained our memberships on the national level, because we want to get Swarthmore’s name out there, and we’ve maintained Pennsylvania, but we can skip New England for a few years.”

Bock also spoke about “renegotiating contracts with vendors, the people who print our publications… we’re a good client and companies don’t want to lose our business, so people have been pretty responsive.”

Another instance of creative cost-cutting is for college fairs. “We’re doing a little less spring travel… if we can send a local alum to a college fair instead of flying a Dean out there, we will.”

The Ride the Tide budget has not been cut. “If we have to cut, we’re going to cut in outreach as opposed to yield… we’re placing priorities on yield and bringing in the class versus outreach. Going to one less high school won’t hurt, handing out one less brochure, but I want to bring in the students who belong here.”

Cuts also reflect a priority placed on face-to-face contact. “We’re keeping the same number for Discovery Weekend… bodies you bring to campus are much more real than brochures or mailings.”

Has the office considered raising the application fee? “We’re looking at everything… we now require a $25 deposit to reserve your spot at Ride the Tide for people who go through the travel agent, and we thought about raising that, but we didn’t want to harm low-income families.”

Bock concluded, “I’ve been pleased with the response by the staff and how conscientious folks have been about bringing ideas to me… I’m heartened by all the hard work and effort people have put in.”


  1. 52% of your newly admitted class is a "domestic person of color". Adding the additional international person of color, your school doesn't reflect the nation, does it, but over-represents this demographic. Why? Why is over-correcting deemed a good thing? Why isn't this called discrimination? Sorry to sound politically incorrect, just an honest question…

  2. since when is the admissions office obligated to "reflect the nation"? college admissions/job acceptances/life opportunities are not a zero-sum game. admitting ~450 students of color is not the same as rejecting ~450 white students for being white. To assume that the color of these students' skin is the only factor examined in their admission to swarthmore is naive, racist and shows a very limited understanding of the admissions process at a small liberal arts college. and are white people (and I say this as a person who's about as aryan as they come) so worried about losing our place at the top of the pyramid of racial inequality that a fraction like 52% is so threatening? that, to me, is highly disturbing.

  3. kim:

    You are confusing admitted students with enrolled students. Yield for African American and Latino/a students is significantly lower than for white students. Yield is slightly lower for Asian American students.

    The actual enrolled percentages at Swarthmore are 55% white/domestic (inc. "unknown") and 45% African American, Latino/a, Asian American, and International. African American and Latino/a students are still somewhat underrepresented, in large part because of the shortage of qualified males in these applicant pools. Asian Americans are overrepresented numerically relative to the overall population.

    Swarthmore is one of the most ethnically diverse elite colleges or universities in the country. If that's not something that appeals to you, Swarthmore might not be the right school. The diversity, both statistically and in campus culture, is a defining characteristic of the school, so someone who objects to the diversity is probably not going to find a good fit. Try Washington & Lee or Davidson if you prefer more white students.

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