This past fall semester, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) passed Resolution 26-01 for the university to release the family income brackets of students receiving need-based aid. The resolution came in response to the University’s shift from need-blind admissions to need-aware based admissions in September, and is a necessary move that benefits the student body as a whole. In a need-aware admissions process, an applicant’s family income can play a part in whether they are admitted or not.
The concern was that the move would hamper the university’s socioeconomic diversity. The resolution succeeded, as the income brackets for previous classes are expected to be released.
Going along with President Brian Ward’s and USG’s other recent efforts to increase visibility of issues that involve student life, the resolution itself covers two issues concerning transparency. Appendix A of the Resolution 26-01 provides USG’s rationale for the release of student income brackets who receive need-based aid, while Appendix B of the resolution targets financial transparency, aiming to clear up vague and confusing language in the annual Budget Books by “clearly defining key terms” and offering “greater detail within expense areas.” The move places Case Western Reserve University with peer institutions such as New York University and Vanderbilt University, whose income brackets are amongst those cited by USG in their appendix.
By passing this resolution, USG legislated their commitment to diversity. It showed their rightful commitment to monitor the population of students who receive need-based aid in order to ensure the population does not shrink.
This soon to-be bracket release lays the groundwork for keeping track of those who compose the majority of need-based awards: middle and lower class students. By focusing on these students, USG can act to ensure this population remains protected under need-aware admissions, whom the resolution states make up the “vast majority of lower and middle class students.” If the number of recipients shrinks, then USG can appropriately address the issue in a timely manner.
The resolution also benefits students by allowing them to critically assess the University’s actions. In over 10 years, CWRU has not changed the way that it runs admissions, and this change happened despite significant student opposition, who feared the university would admit students who do not require financial assistance in lieu of middle and working class students. The increased visibility of the university’s actions will allow students to stay informed. While basing their opinions off of accurate, newly available information, students can judge whether the new admissions system is being used in a way that reflect their values as a student body.
This increased visibility opens the university to praise—and criticism from those who its actions affect. In the face of such a controversial shift, it is only right that the student body see the results and inner workings of such decisions. If these policies fail, or even if there are a few hiccups along the way, then everyone deserves to know.
That being said, without the income brackets for the applicant pool and those finally admitted for the class of 2021 and the subsequent classes, we cannot decide how an admissions process that scrutinizes an applicant’s family income changes the student body.