George Washington may never have told a lie, but the university named after him lives in a different world, the college industrial complex. So it should come as no surprise that Jeremy Diamond at the GW Hatchet discovered that GWU has been fibbing all of these years about being a “need blind” institution. There’s only so much financial aid and they can’t let in a big batch of poor people just because they happen to be smart. They have to take to family’s ability to pay into account.
It’s worth noting that GWU is already on double not-so-secret probation from US News after they self-reported making a big boo-boo in the quality of their incoming class. It turns out that only 58% were in the top 10% of their high school class, not 78%. Ooops. US News booted them, perhaps to teach them a lesson for reminding the world that US News accepts the word of the college industrial complex as gospel. (See reporting from Jenna Johnson at the Washington Post.)
Many of the news stories about this like to say that not many schools are truly need blind before pointing out just how complicated it can be to manage all of the financial aid budgets. That’s true but I think it’s worse. I don’t think ANY of them are need blind. Not even the fancy Ivy League institutions. After talking with colleagues at all of the super fancy schools, I can report that we’ve all watched the press releases and come to the same conclusion. There are so many signals. Most of the schools report the same percentage on financial aid, year after year. Well, duh. That doesn’t happen with a true random sample even when the numbers are so large.
The fact is the schools have nice proxies that make it easy for them to guess the ability to pay. Prep schools are good at sending the signal that a kid will pay the outrageous tuition by testing their resistance to huge bills.
After that, the schools decide how much money they need and then they let in the right number of public school kids. They can guesstimate the average salaries of the public high schools too and use this to tweak the rankings. Heck, most of the time the world does it for them because the better schools are where the richer people live.
It’s just another example of how the college industrial complex distorts reality and lies to itself. They want to maintain their populist patina but they’re also addicted to cash, lots of cash. So they make up fibs about “need blind” to make themselves feel good about the whole thing. It’s just another one of the lies. And if this lie isn’t good enough, they also squeeze the families by coming up with tight formulae for calculating the “expected contribution.” But hey, it’s all “need blind” even if they decide just what “need” happens to be.