A coalition of students, as part of a movement to bring attention to the College's admissions and financial aid policies, are organizing a campaign to bring the issues to the attention of alumni visiting the College for Commencement Weekend.
The Fair Aid and Admissions Task Force (FAACT) is planning to distribute fliers to alumni staying in dorms on Saturday. The fliers will outline the efforts students have made to get information about the effects of the College's aid and admissions policies on entering classes and the difficulty they feel they have had in getting consistent information.
The College currently uses a non-need blind admissions policy. This means that the College knows the financial need of students during the admissions process. One of the major demands of FAACT is to understand the exact way that non-need-blind admissions is implemented.
The College eliminated need-blind admissions for the class of 1999. According to Director of Financial Aid Howard Thomas, there was a gap between students' demonstrated financial need and the amount of aid the student received while the College used need-blind. Althought Thomas said that on the bottom line there has to be some financial discrimination in the admission process, he emphasized the trade-off that had to be made for a sound economic policy. He maintains the admissions staff must make "sound fiscal decisoins."
For several weeks FAACT has been collecting signatures of students who support their campaign. Sophomore Sara Marcus said she doesn't know how many signatures they have gotten, but said that she senses a lot of interest in this issue among students. "I hear people talking about it all the time," she said. Marcus said, however, that students don't know enough about the issue.
Members of FAACT said they have often received contradictory answers to their questions about the effect of the College's admissions and financial aid policies on the demographics of the student body from administrators. They have also tried to gain an understanding of the way the College's "need-aware" admissions policy works.
"We get different answers about where needs come in in the admissions process," Philip Locker, a college first-year said. Members said that some administrators told them that need only enters into the decisions in a handful of cases, while others said it is a fundamental determinant.
Members said they have talked with representatives from the Office of Admissions, the Office of Financial Aid, the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Director of Institutional Research Ross Peacock.
Demographic and financial statistics provided to the Review earlier this Spring show that over the last two years the elimination of need blind admisions has not affected the racial diversity of the student body considerably and has allowed the College to meet all demonstrated financial need.
Mary Jerzak, a college sophomore, said the College does not seem to have a unified answer to questions about the admissions policy.
Marcus called the group's actions a first step. "They are just not being forthcoming with the information," she said. "We want to know if the College's policy is something we agree with."
In addition to arguing that a college education should not depend on one's economic status, many members of FAACT are also concerned with the lack of emphasis on economic diversity in the College's rhetoric about diversity. Peter Olson, a college first-year, said the College needs to work to bring a socio-economically diverse student body to Oberlin. "Economic diversity is often de-emphasized," he said.
Marcus said the goals which address diversity outlined in the report on the College's long range planning process only recognized certain types of diversity.
Despite their contention, the planning team report that deal with eductional access emphasizes the importance of the improvement of access for low-income students. One of its recommendations is that the College reinstate need-blind admissions.
Members of FAACT emphasized that the campaign is not for simply a reinstatement of need-blind admissions, but a reinstatement of the principles of need-blind admissions.
Marcus said that one problem with need-blind admissions is that the College is not able to offer adequate aid packages after the students first year.
Marcus and others commended the College's efforts to improve diversity on campus and increase the financial aid budget. "Increasing the financial aid budget is a very important step," she said.
Locker said that his own opinion is that there are only limited improvements that can be made within the framework of a private institution. He said he thinks college should be free. "They need to challenge that framework and that logic," he said. "They need to challenge their dependence on private donors and private tuition."
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 25, May 23, 1997
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