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.
We regret the publication of this article in its current form. However, we have not removed it so as not to erase the record of our failure. Here is a link to our apology.
Since day one of freshman year, most Swarthmore students are excited to practice and preach the liberal values of tolerance and equality. They believe that Swarthmore is a highly progressive school where no one can be discriminated against because of their gender, race, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. The admissions department, in particular, preaches fairness in every regard. This process, however, is anything but fair.
For a school that places so much emphasis on equality, it’s surprising that need-blind admission is practically an absolute myth at Swarthmore.
Here’s why: while Swat may never see your parents’ actual income through the Common App, the admissions process is designed in a way where your income is implicitly indicated for anyone who is looking. The Common App can detect socioeconomic background easily, advantaging the most well off. Swarthmore’s use of these indicators certainly hinders socioeconomic diversity on campus.
An example of one of these indicators is the family background check. Swarthmore’s application asks for students’ parents’ professions and the high school they attended. If a student’s parents are both lawyers and the student attended an expensive prep school, this student likely has an advantage over a student who attended an average public school. So, why do they probably have this advantage? The admissions office has a real incentive to accept people with a wealthier background for two reasons: (1) They know wealthy students can afford full tuition. (2) They know rich parents are potential donors. Both mean more money for Swarthmore.
On top of that, in any system that values test scores, money is a huge advantage. The ability to pay for tutors, standardized test prep, college advising, and essay edits is invaluable. It’s a benefit most are not privy to. Other factors like legacy and connections can influence admissions decisions as well.
We must conclude with holistic honesty that universities and colleges know exactly who can pay and who can’t. In fact, the statistics clearly show it.
Nationwide, ninety-five percent of students from private schools attend a four-year institution. The average cost of private school is $15,000. But the odds grow even higher if a student comes from an elite private school, like Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where the tuition is a staggering $45,000. Almost every student at these schools attends a four-year elite college or university. An absurdly high 5% of Harvard’s class of 2017 came from just seven high schools. Taken straight from the Swarthmore College website, “Fifty-eight percent of the admitted students come from public high schools, 27 percent from private independent schools, seven percent from parochial schools, and eight percent from schools overseas.” Not as bad as other top colleges, but still awfully hypocritical. Although the administration floats these numbers with a charitable glow, they do not reflect the national breakdown of students in the slightest. Ninety-percent of the national youth attend public school. Top schools consistently comprise only half of their enrollment with students from public institutions.
Swarthmore doesn’t have to do this. Its endowment is currently $1.88 billion (over $1 million per student) and the school funds idiotic endeavors all the time (who could forget the esteemed “car wash” art exhibit a few years back). There’s a difference between needing money and wanting it. People can have more money than they could possibly know what to do with, and still want more. For a school so critical of materialist, capitalist, corporate America, it sure is greedy for some extra green.
Other top colleges have the same problem. In 2013, George Washington University admitted that it puts hundreds on its wait list every year because they cannot afford full tuition. Roughly 22,000 applicants fall into this category. Take a look at this article if you want to further your resentment for GW.
Reed College is also a notoriously elitist and hypocritical school with a “need-aware policy.” In 2009, the school faced a returning student body that needed more aid than previous years. Reed’s financial aid office looked at their list of newly accepted freshmen and told the admission department to strike more than a hundred students off the list because they needed aid. The administration subsequently requested immediate substitutions. Affluent students who could pay the full price received their acceptance letters within the next few weeks.
Do I think mixing finances and admissions is fundamentally wrong? Absolutely not. Colleges are, at a basic level, private institutions that need to worry about their long term sustainability. Demonizing wealthy students is not productive because, in the end, they are paying not just for their own education but also for the education of their hyper-liberal classmates who resent the upper class at its core. Is this fair? No. But life isn’t fair. That’s reality. Stop whining and get over it. “Check your privilege” should be replaced with a warm “thank you so, so much for being forced to pay for my opportunity.”
My problem is that Swarthmore speaks one way and acts another. Swarthmore has no right to brag about it’s socioeconomic diversity. It’s just as hypocritical as any other school. It’s just discreet about it, employing vague facts as a slimy marketing strategy.
A school shouldn’t be hyper-progressive in public and a money hog behind closed doors. Pick a side and be honest about it! In the end, I’m sure Swarthmore will pick the side with more money.
We need to replace the term “need-blind” with “need-aware.” Our college is actually “completely aware.” Let’s not forget that Swarthmore is very much looking out for its own interests.
Featured image courtesy of www.swarthmore.edu