For years, George Washington University has waitlisted students because they need financial aid — and lied about the policy.
Administrators came clean recently about the fact that wealthy students were admitted in place of other qualified applicants who would have difficulty paying tuition, The GW Hatchet reported.
Applicants of all socioeconomic statuses were treated equally during the first round of consideration. But once the initial decision was made, some students were moved from “accepted” to “waitlisted” based on their financial need. Applicants who could afford tuition without aid were then admitted in their place.
“We have our internal preliminary decision of admit or waitlist or deny, and then we run the numbers and then we go, ‘Okay, we have to do a little bit of shuffling here,’” said Laurie Koehler, newly-hired senior associate provost for enrollment management, in a statement.
The policy affects roughly 10 percent of GW’s 22,000 applicants each year.
Being moved to the waitlist is nearly equivalent to rejection. Just one percent of waitlisted students are later admitted, according to The GW Hatchet.
Koehler’s confession came as a surprise too many; GW’s admissions policy has always been considered need-blind by outside observers. Administrators never corrected that assumption — something that economist Richard Vedder considers “dishonest.”
“It’s misleading,” said Vedder, an economics professor at the Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “Need-blind would mean, ‘We don’t pay a bit of attention to financial considerations in making admissions decisions,’ and GW clearly does.”
Still, a GW spokesperson told The Daily Caller that administrators never lied about the university’s admissions policy, and characterized the recent revelations as a clarification.
“[The] 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,” wrote David Andrews, associate director of media relations at GW, in a statement. 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.”
Economically disadvantaged applicants are not harmed by the policy, said Andrews.
“It kind of sounds like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too,” he said.
As recently as Saturday, admissions counselors were still telling prospective students at the university is need-blind, according to NPR.
This is not the first time GW has been accused of severe deception. The university was recently removed from U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings after officials admitting to inflating incoming students’ credentials in reports.