Contrary to claims, George Washington considers financial need in admissions

October 22, 2013

George Washington University, which until a few days ago advertised that financial-aid requests “do not affect admissions decisions,” now says that it considers the financial need of some applicants when it is in the final stages of choosing its incoming classes.

A university official issued a statement of apology Tuesday for what she described as a lapse in communications about George Washington’s admissions policies.

This week, the student newspaper, the GW Hatchet, published an article headlined: “GW misrepresented admissions and financial aid policy for years.”

The Hatchet cited evidence that the university in recent years had characterized its admissions policies as “need-blind,” meaning that it would decide whether to admit applicants entirely on the strength of their qualifications, without factoring in their family’s financial background.

“We’re still need-blind,” the Hatchet quoted then-dean of admissions Kathryn Napper as saying in October 2011. In addition, until last weekend, a university Web site stated: “Requests for financial aid do not affect admissions decisions.” That statement has since been deleted from the site.

Napper retired last year after a disclosure that for several years, the school inflated high school class rank data for incoming freshmen, which raised the perceived academic strength of incoming classes. The revelation caused the school to be removed from a U.S. News and World Report annual ranking of national universities. It has since joined the list again.

Laurie Koehler, hired this year as associate provost for enrollment management, said this week that the admissions office gives applications a “first review” without considering financial need. In some cases in a final review, she said, the office does consider need. Koehler said the strategy enables the university to offer “more attractive” aid packages to deserving students while staying within its budget.

Koehler said the school’s policy is best described as “need-aware” rather than “need-blind.” She added: “It is our goal to make sure that all of our admissions practices and policies, including how we factor need into the final admissions decisions, are communicated clearly to prospective students and parents. I apologize that our communications did not fully meet that standard.”

A former Post education editor, Nick writes about college from the perspective of a father of three who will soon be buried in tuition bills.
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