Did need-blind admission create the college debt crisis?

Posted on July 7th, 2014

Many of the nation’s top universities, such as Harvard, Stanford and Duke, are lauded for having need-blind admissions policies, meaning they don’t take into account a student’s ability to pay for college when making admissions decisions.

These schools say the policy a way to make sure the best students are accepted because of their merit, regardless of their family’s financial background.

While it’s hard to find fault in a policy that prevents low-income students from being discriminated against, a recent Daily Beast article raised a fair question: Does having need-blind admissions encourage students to take on excessive debt to pay for pricy, elite universities?

Needy students given loans to pay for college

According to the article, need-blind admissions has been a policy of some of the nation’s top colleges since the 1990s. Many colleges flaunt such policies as a way of demonstrating their generosity, supposed egalitarianism, and commitment to finding the most qualified students.

These schools, according to John McWhorter, promise students that will be awarded with “a comprehensive financial aid package”–which has increasingly included federal student loans as college tuition has risen in recent years.

Even after loans, scholarships, and grants, McWhorter writes, many students find they can’t afford the college that has so generously chosen to admit them. Thus, they’re forced to take out private student loans, which usually have less flexible terms and repayment options, to make up the difference.

And since students can take out unlimited amounts of money with private loans, some end up saddled with debt in the high five figures or more.

The big bad scenario need-blind admissions were supposed to eliminate was the student who was disqualified from consideration by a university because her parents didn’t make enough money.

But the question bears asking: Is a student winding up with a crushing debt burden really a better situation than that one?

Don’t let a dream college become a nightmare

While we still believe students should be admitted to college regardless of their family’s financial situation, we believe everyone must recognize the impact that student debt can have on their future.

We understand the excitement when a student is admitted to their top-choice college, but a dream college can quickly become a nightmare when students and families take out large sums of student loans to pay for it.

And while a fancy name like Yale might seem worth paying for, studies have shown that attending a prestigious college will not impact your future chances of success, happiness or wealth.

Look for ways to avoid student debt

If you can get into a need-blind top college, chances are you’ll be up for significant scholarship money at other colleges as well–if not a free ride.

We always encourage students to avoid debt if possible, so it’s important to be thorough and open-minded in your college search.

Remember: just because an elite college admits a student, it doesn’t mean it’s the right financial choice for their future. If you need help finding affordable colleges that can also provide a great academic experience for your student, feel free to give us a call at 1-888-234-3907 or fill out this form.

Category: Choosing a College

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