Peters: Improving Recruiting

by William Peters | 5/12/14 5:28pm

Proponents of the “Freedom Budget” proposal have demanded that the College increase representation of various ethnicities and races to 10 percent in order to increase diversity here at Dartmouth. Yet Dartmouth cannot simply make efforts with respect to race or ethnicity without also addressing socioeconomic status. Affirmative action has become a controversial term in America, and setting up racial quotas is highly problematic. Instead, Dartmouth should attempt to diversify its community through recruitment efforts that seek out exceptional students in low-income communities.

Though socioeconomic distribution certainly correlates with race, admitting students solely based on racial or ethnic quotas overlooks the fact that a white student and a black student from upper-class families likely have more in common than two students of the same race from contrasting socioeconomic backgrounds. Dartmouth’s yearly cost is over $60,000, and 49 percent of students do not receive financial aid. Obviously, Dartmouth, despite being need-blind, needs a healthy number of students who can pay the bills without financial aid. Money is one of the major complications in the effort to diversify our campus. So how do we address it?

Dartmouth could achieve greater socioeconomic diversity through a similar process as athletic recruiting, involving active outreach to low-income areas. If coaches can look at spreadsheets with athletes’ statistics, make trips and arrange college visits, how difficult could it be for Dartmouth to establish a system in which high school students can share academic achievements and interests?

With such a recruiting system in place, Dartmouth could reach out to disadvantaged students and allow them to see if Dartmouth is a good fit. Yes, the College conducts some outreach, but prestigious colleges like Dartmouth can be intimidating because they come with costs and the risk of failure. Even once students have already applied or been accepted, outreach is crucial. We must encourage and support these students before they decide to go elsewhere. Recruitment could be turned into a community effort that allows current students to participate in the process, much like how student-athletes reach out to recruits and prospective recruits by showing them around campus and maintaining communication through email and social media. A website could allow those interested to create academic profiles, filled with much of the same content found on the Common Application, and communicate with current students and admissions officers through a social network.

In 2010, former College President James Wright paid a visit to my community college in Boston and met with veterans, telling them that with hard work, they could come to Dartmouth. After my acceptance, I was hesitant and almost declined, but the current student veterans conducted outreach efforts and expressed the benefits of going to Dartmouth, even offering me a place to stay so I could see campus for myself. This is my personal experience, but I know many other veterans with similar stories.

Establishing and maintaining a recruitment program for students of low socioeconomic status to attend Dartmouth would no doubt be a costly endeavor, but it is surely one of the best ways to diversify campus. The College has already established partnerships with various scholarships, and the recruiters could work with prospective students in their applications for financial assistance. The alumni who have benefited from this great institution should come together and sponsor an initiative like this. Not only would it be a great gesture, but it would be a legitimate way to benefit the community. Such a move would demonstrate how much Dartmouth provides for its students.

Strengthening our recruitment system for low-income students would help ensure that the College encourages bright, young students to join this wonderful place. With a concerted effort from the administration, alumni and current students, I think we could make this happen. Dartmouth should be a place where all students feel welcome, regardless of the amount of money in their bank accounts.