Hassett: Needlessly Changing Policy

by Meghan Hassett | 9/20/15 6:51pm

After reading The Dartmouth’s Friday article, “College ends need-blind admission for international students,” which stated the admissions office will consider international applicants to the Class of 2020 under a “need-aware” policy, I can only think that the College is headed down the path of socioeconomic exclusivity.

Dartmouth is very proud of its diverse student body, touting its breadth of students that come from all over the country and across the world. Students from widely varying backgrounds bring with them a rich landscape of perspectives to share with others. During my time here, I have always felt that one incredible, sincere conversation with someone who has led a very different life and holds a unique worldview from my own could often teach me more and offer a more profound learning experience than some of the classes I have taken. It seems like opportunities for these kinds of mind-blowing and perspective-shifting experiences will no longer be as readily available, as more people matriculating here will look the same and have had more similar experiences. With this shift in the need-blind policy, I fear international students in need of financial assistance will be excluded from entering the College. This may result in a fundamental change in campus discourse and the student experience by shifting the population away from less wealthy students from a large variety of nations in favor of those with the resources to pay tuition.

When comparing two incredibly gifted and talented students — one of whom is wealthy and the other would need a full scholarship — accepting the wealthier student seems a great way to increase the College’s profits while continuing to boast a strong percentage of international students. With this new policy change, I fear a decrease in attendance of students from non-Western, less wealthy nations, limiting us to Western views of seeing the world, as well as international perspectives rooted in socioeconomic privilege. It is vital that college students be confronted with different viewpoints constantly — people you may otherwise never have met with opinions you may otherwise never have heard or considered. Ending need-blind admissions for international students is a huge step in the wrong direction for academic integrity at Dartmouth, as well as for the overall student experience. Our international students are worth just as much as American ones, and they must be treated the same by the admissions office. When we have international students, such as my first-year undergraduate advisor Miriam Kilimo ’14, who went on to become Rhodes Scholars and contribute so greatly to the College in myriad ways, it seems idiotic to discourage international students in need of financial aid from applying.

Moreover, when it comes down to which international students are interested in applying, it seems that being one of the only elite American universities with need-blind admissions would give the College’s international reputation equal or better standing with many of its peer institutions. With the shift to a need-aware policy, Dartmouth runs the risk of Ivy League universities who retain a need-blind financial aid policy — such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities — seeming much more attractive in the eyes of international students. This policy change may discourage all international students from applying to the College — regardless of whether or not they can foot the bill.

With this in mind, I can only see a heightening of social exclusivity based on race and class in Dartmouth’s future. I can only see diversity of opinions and perspectives narrowing, be they from international students or those without a preparatory school background. I can also only see the number of international students decreasing, allowing campus to live comfortably in an American-centric bubble even more so than we already do. Interim dean of admissions and financial aid Paul Sunde said that this policy change will “stabilize” international student admissions, ensuring “robust” enrolling classes. I fail to see, however, how ending need-blind admissions for international students will do anything but send Dartmouth further down the path of homogeneity and exclusivity.