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Our access problem

Admission into a top school is widely regarded as a crapshoot — top private colleges like Haverford are receiving record numbers of applications each coming year, with all signs pointing to more people applying to more highly-ranked schools. Class sizes, however, remain relatively stable, meaning admission rates are rapidly decreasing.

Haverford is no exception — the admit rate has dropped from 30% for the Class of 2007 to 25% for 2013 and 22.9% for 2016.

We hear it all the time: the unfortunate reality is that while many are qualified to attend institutions like Haverford, we simply don’t have enough room for everybody. Yet, instead of viewing this as a problem, Haverford and other colleges have made it a source of pride, manifested through exclamations of how small and intimate our community is. The size of our community is essential to the Haverford experience, but we must not forget that it comes at the expense of too many qualified students.

College experiences and college degrees are mechanisms to change lives. Haverford’s brand of education goes a step beyond most, showcasing its emphasis on social justice and actually using the education received to effect positive change in the U.S. and other countries.

But being smart, driven, and qualified is no longer enough. Schools see decreasing admission rates as a sign of prestige rather than a growing problem and barrier to upward mobility. Even if schools don’t see the bottomless pit of decreasing admit rates as good thing, the most that happens is a shrug and a little comment about how tough everything is getting nowadays.

The financial reality and capacity of the College to accept students is an important and inevitable part of the conversation, but we shouldn’t accept these as immovable barriers or allow them to limit the scope of our idealism. We should not be content with the fact that Haverford turns down so many bright people who would undoubtedly thrive here, but there is a profound absence of passion towards the issue.

We shouldn’t accept lower admission rates as a sign of prestige or the crapshoot process of admissions. Rather, we should view this reality as a problem that can be fixed or mitigated, not just one that is unfortunate and inevitable. Otherwise, we are doing a disservice not only to applicants but to the goals of the institution as well.