College announces need-blind admissions policy for international students

The new policy went into effect this admissions cycle and covered applicants in the early decision round.

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 1/12/22 5:26pm

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by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

On Jan. 12, the College announced a new universal need-blind admissions policy, expanding its existing practice to include international students. Applicants from abroad will now be evaluated under the same process as U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

According to the College’s press release, Dartmouth is now one of only six U.S. universities — the others being Amherst College, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and Yale University — to offer universal need-blind admissions and meet 100% of applicants’ demonstrated need regardless of their citizenship status. The change, effective starting with the Class of 2026, covered early decision applicants who already received their decisions in December

The announcement comes on the heels of a federal antitrust lawsuit accusing Dartmouth and 15 other colleges and universities of colluding on financial aid policies to artificially inflate the cost of attendance. 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an emailed statement to The Dartmouth that the timing of the announcement is “unrelated to the lawsuit” and that “plans for the announcement had been under discussion with the anonymous donor for a number of weeks.” 

As part of the Call to Lead campaign beginning in 2018, the College set a $90 million fundraising goal to adopt a need-blind admissions policy for international students. A recent $40 million gift from an anonymous donor capped the fundraising initiative, according to the release. In total, over 440 alumni and parents hailing from six continents donated to the cause. 

According to Lawrence, the Call to Lead campaign met its hefty $3 billion goal in October 2021, but the College has “more work to do to complete some key priorities.” Among those outstanding projects, the release states that Dartmouth has raised $372 million of its $500 million plan to “expand educational opportunity through financial aid,” which comprises the $90 million universal need-blind admissions goal. With those donations, the College has been able to eliminate student loans for families earning $125,000 or less and waive the family contribution for families earning $65,000 or less. 

Vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid Lee Coffin noted that the College was aware it would likely receive the $40 million gift as early as fall of 2021. 

“We didn’t say that publicly — the admissions staff didn’t even know they were doing it,” Coffin said. “I just said… the [$90 million] campaign is ongoing and we’re getting close to this opportunity. Let’s start modeling need-blind practices for [the Class of 2026’s] cohort.” 

When asked why the decision was not announced publicly earlier, Coffin referred comment on the timing of the announcement to President Phil Hanlon.

Dartmouth had previously exercised universal need-blind admissions from the Class of 2012 through the Class of 2019 but ultimately reversed the policy for international students in 2015. According to Coffin, universal need-blind admissions in years past was “an ideal without the [financial] resource.” Following the policy’s suspension, and as Coffin assumed his post in 2016, the College calculated how much would need to be raised to sustain the policy and landed on the $90 million fundraising target.

“The best gift I can give to each enrolling class is a peer group that is drawn from as many different backgrounds as we can gather together in Hanover, and that includes international students,” Coffin said. “… I think when I look back at my career… this will be one of the signature moments. It really gives me goosebumps to be part of something like this… and I’m proud to be able to work for a college that can do this.”

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