Our Quaker heritage is often brought up to show how different we are from other academic institutions, both in our mission and our quotidian goings on. I believe in the core of my being that Haverford is a unique, special and wonderful place. The focus on community is a large part of what makes Haverford so special. This community is made up of the brightest and kindest people I know from all over the world and with all sorts of financial situations. Haverford’s, now relatively unique combination of need blind admissions and meeting full demonstrated need has helped to foster diversity on campus. Our need-blind policy is now being threatened, and with that, so is our ability to maintain a diverse student body.
Haverford is considering becoming partially need-aware. The details have not been finalized, but they do not matter so much as the principle. Being need-aware is obviously not in line with our pursuit of a richly diverse community, so I would like to believe our financial situation is grave enough that some people believe it warrants this sort of response. I am not in a position to speak to the financial situation of the college, but we are now in an entering a period where Haverford must make difficult decisions on the relationship between our values and our finances.
Diversity in all its forms adds to the unique community of Haverford. However, what is common in all Haverford grads is an enthusiasm for and commitment to community and academics. Finding diverse students who share these values is by no means an easy task for the admissions department, but it is of the utmost importance if we are to keep the Haverford community alive and thriving. Adding a need-aware component to the admissions process, no matter how marginal, refocuses the admissions officers’ goals away from pursuing an diverse Haverford student body. A proclivity towards higher income applicants is bound to happen once need is considered, and some lower income students will be deterred from even applying to Haverford. Haverford will inevitably become less diverse, even though this is not the goal of a need-aware policy.
Shifting to a need-aware policy is not only unfair to applicants but to Haverford as a community. We espouse our commitment to diversity, but how true can this be if “diversity” is slowly becoming skewed to mean “financially viable diversity”? If we are going to shift to becoming a need-aware school we need to be explicit that either our goals have changed or our level of commitment has. Our budget is the tangible representation of our priorities. There will always be money for things we value.
It is my belief that Haverford is still a unique place, both as an academic institution and as a community. If Haverford is to fulfill its mission of sending thoughtful and intelligent people out into the world, it needs to create a community that students want to replicate in the world at large. That starts with sending the message to current and potential students that Haverford is committed to them, no matter their financial situation. Upholding the need-blind admissions policy is upholding a moral principle and prioritizing a student’s education and place in the community over the potential cost to the school. Becoming need-aware may not seem like a large change, but it is a significant move away from these principles, damaging the community now and in the future.