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"We seek quality not to satisfy some external audience or to chase reputation, but to fulfill our own responsibility to educate global citizens at the highest possible level."

 

   

A Letter from President Rosenberg
on Macalester's Commitment to Quality and Access

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domestic non-transfer students, meaning that we treat both international applicants and transfer applicants, who together comprise about 20 percent of our applicant pool, differently than the rest—and clearly for financial reasons. In other words, if there is an ethical Rubicon to be crossed between need-blind and need-aware admissions policies, we have already crossed it. As I mentioned earlier, many of the schools that describe themselves as need-blind (almost all of which are wealthier than Macalester) enroll very affluent student populations. Many of these schools also give substantial admissions advantages to the children of alumni, who tend as a group to be much wealthier than the average applicant; some recruit very aggressively in private and preparatory schools or target selected zip codes. All of these strategies maximize the yield of "no-need" students without formally violating the "need-blind" admissions guidelines of the college. It is critical to understand that need-blind policies are no guarantee of a deep commitment to access, just as need-aware policies are not inconsistent with such a commitment. In fact, there is no correlation nationally between need-blind admissions policies and either economic or racial diversity on liberal arts college campuses. What defines a commitment to access is not chiefly a particular admissions policy, but the actual size of the financial aid budget, the actual students enrolled at the college and the willingness to create a campus culture and climate genuinely welcoming to an economically representative student body.

My own view is that responsible stewardship of Macalester means working to find an appropriate and honest balance between access and quality, a balance that adheres to our values while ensuring the means to preserve and enhance the quality of what we do for our students. This means continuing to devote more resources to financial aid than do most of our peers—because that is Macalester's distinctive character and distinctive strength—yet setting a reasonable limit on that expenditure so that it does not overwhelm and undermine everything else that we do. Financial aid must continue to be a very large expenditure, but it must become a controllable expenditure. To that end, the Board of Trustees has spent much time during the past year discussing the question of tuition revenue, and I directed the Resource Planning Committee—a standing committee composed of faculty, staff and students—to examine the same question and to make recommendations on how we might proceed. Their report is now complete and may be obtained by e-mailing alumnioffice@macalester.edu and requesting a copy; I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to peruse one. The chief recommendations of the committee are summarized here.

I would encourage you to read the summary with care. Read it more than once. It forms the heart of our discussion, and it is important. The committee is not recommending that Macalester stop meeting the full need of all admitted students; in fact, it is recommending the opposite. It is not recommending that we become a college only for the affluent or that we abandon a strong and clearly articulated commitment to access; in fact, it is recommending that we guarantee that commitment through a robust financial aid budget. It is recommending that we put in place a mechanism to ensure that financial aid does not grow disproportionately to, and therefore undermine, everything else that we do. Indeed, I believe that the committee is suggesting that to fail to put in place such a mechanism would be to act irresponsibly toward future generations of Macalester students and to neglect our responsibilities as stewards of the college.

Competing priorities

Virtually everyone would agree that in the best of all possible worlds the perpetuation of our current policy of need-blind admissions—indeed, the expansion of that policy to include transfer and international students—would be a good. At the same time, and only within the past year, the faculty has voted not to reduce staffing levels in our programs in Russian and Japanese and to bolster staffing in our popular Environmental Studies program; students, faculty, and parents have lamented the absence of Chinese-language instruction, and students have

 

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