February 24, 2002
Brown Adopts Need-Blind Admissions Rule
By JACQUES STEINBERG
rown University yesterday became the last of the Ivy League institutions to adopt a so-called need-blind admissions policy, as its trustees endorsed a proposal by the university president to exclude information about applicants' financial means from all decisions on whether to admit them, beginning in 2003.
Under current policy, Brown admits at least the first 90 percent of the members of each freshman class regardless of their ability to pay, but weighs applicants' finances in filling the remaining slots. The seven other Ivy institutions, and several dozen other selective private colleges, have had need-blind policies for decades, but Brown had long maintained that it did not have the resources to follow suit.
Brown officials said they did not expect the new policy to change the racial or ethnic makeup of the student body, but they did anticipate that the university would draw and accept more impoverished students.
To pay for the new policy which is expected to increase the university's annual financial aid budget by at least $1.3 million in the first year Brown officials said they would tap a number of sources, including raising the tuition of full-paying students by an undetermined amount, asking alumni for more money and increasing the amount drawn annually from the university's $1.5 billion endowment.
Ruth J. Simmons, who was inaugurated as Brown's president last fall and who attended Dillard University in New Orleans on full scholarship, said that she had come to see need-blind admissions as a moral imperative. Because of the high-quality education it provides, Dr. Simmons said, Brown has a "special obligation to the country to be available for its best minds, irrespective of the student's ability to pay."
Brown's new policy will resemble those of most other institutions in two main ways. While committed to giving its students all of the financial help they need, Brown, and not the student, will remain the final arbiter of what that amount is. In addition, the university's need-blind policy will not apply to applicants from foreign countries, at least not initially.
But Brown's trustees broke ranks with most other institutions by agreeing that students who receive financial assistance will not be required to work in their first year. Brown intends to give students an additional $2,000 in direct aid in their first year, rather than offering them additional loans. At Brown, where tuition, fees and room and board totaled $34,750 this year and will rise to $36,356 next year the typical financial aid award is $24,300, including $3,300 in loans.
While Dr. Simmons said she understood the rationale behind the first-year work requirement that students on aid who work feel a sense of ownership in their education she said that such a concern was outweighed by her desire to have all first-year students concentrate exclusively on their studies. She also said that requiring the poorest students to work only served to further divide them from more affluent classmates.
As part of the broader proposal that the trustees adopted yesterday, Brown would add 100 faculty positions, an increase of 20 percent, over the next 5 to 10 years.