George Washington University misrepresented its admission policy, waitlists students who can't afford its tuition

Photo courtrsy Ting via Flickr

George Washington University admitted that it has lied about its admissions process, calling it "need-blind" when in reality, hundreds of prospective students were wait-listed each year because they could not pay GW's tuition.

In a report by the school's independent student newspaper, the GW Hatchet, University administrators said they have always factored financial need into admissions decisions. That statement contradicts previous statements by officials and admissions materials that have repeatedly called the school's admissions process "need-blind."

As recently as Saturday, the University's admissions website said "Requests for financial aid do not affect admissions decisions." That language has since been removed from the website.

Laurie Koehler, the University's associate provost for enrollment management, said the "need-aware" policy affects roughly 10 percent of the 22,000 prospective students who apply to GW each year.

And in a statement released on Monday evening, she states:

Today's story in the independent student newspaper the GW Hatchet may have given the impression that the university's consideration of student need in its admissions process has changed. The university's admissions practices have not changed with regard to how financial aid requests are factored in. What has changed is the new leadership in enrollment management. What we are trying to do is increase the transparency of the admissions process.

I believe using the phrase "need aware" better represents the totality of our practices than the phrase "need blind." It is important to note that consideration of need occurs at the very end of the admissions process. The first review of applications is need blind and admissions committees recommend candidates for admission with no knowledge of need. Some admissions professionals use the phrase "read need blind" to describe a process like ours where the admissions committees do not have access to the amount of need of an applicant.

The Hatchet story suggests that the university's practice of need aware admissions automatically disadvantages students with need. Quite the contrary, our need aware admissions policy enables the university to provide more attractive aid packages for students with financial need while staying within our aid budget. More than 60 percent of our students receive grants from the university.

The George Washington University is committed to the goal of making a George Washington education accessible to all who qualify for admission. We have always said that one of our competitive disadvantages is not having the resources to undergird student aid. The university has significantly increased student aid under the leadership of President Steven Knapp, who made this his top priority on day one of his presidency. This includes launching the Power and Promise Initiative to increase philanthropic giving for student aid. We will continue to work to clarify our admissions practices and to recruit a strong and diverse student body.

Find out more from the GW Hatchet.