Q-and-A: Steinberg praises Princeton financial aid
Though Jacques Steinberg said he is not an expert on the Princeton admission process, the prominent New York Times reporter who runs ‘The Choice’ blog certainly knows the field of higher education. Before his lecture Thursday afternoon at an event hosted by the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, Steinberg sat down with the ‘Prince’ to discuss trends in the college admission process.
The Daily Princetonian: Do you think applying early is becoming the new normal?
Jacques Steinberg: I don’t think we have enough information. Invariably some schools are going to be down, particularly some that were up last year. Princeton — this is only its second year back [with early action], so the odds that it was going to go up were pretty high, I would think. I think we want to be careful. But I will say that clearly, for at least some of the institutions, more and more kids every year want to try to either lock in that option early or at least know early where they might stand some place.
DP: Dartmouth saw a 12-percent drop in its early decision applications. Do you have any idea why?
JS: I would have no idea. Partly, you would want to see last year: Were they up the year before? Or two years? Again, these things are cyclical, so you want to be careful not to put too much stock in these numbers because there’s a lot of reasons.
DP: Do you think it would be too early to say how Princeton reinstating its early action program affects the college application field?
JS: I think it is too early to say. Are there some kids who are going to go single-choice early action at Princeton and not elsewhere? I’m sure there are. But there are others who may stay on their own course.
DP: Is there something that you’ve seen at Princeton that they’re doing right in policy?
JS: This is one of the most generous institutions in terms of its financial aid in the country.
DP: Where do you think what high school seniors are doing right now to get into colleges will go in the future? Do you think that’s heading toward a high demand for perfect SAT scores and over-the-top extracurricular activities?
JS: No. It’s hard for you to be on this campus and realize it’s really hard for families to afford an undergraduate education. The biggest challenge that families around the country are facing far from this campus is whether they can afford an elite private education or whether it’s more cost effective for them to go to an in-state public school. And even in some cases the in-state public school is out of reach financially and the rest of them, maybe they should do two years of community college and transfer. That’s the real world. So that, I think, is the single biggest trend worth watching in all this — families wrestling with the costs.
DP: Do you see college admissions offices making sure that their financial aid programs are being highly publicized?
JS: Institutions are struggling with being able to meet the need of every kid who applies. I think one issue that institutions are working on is what can they afford in terms of financial aid? Can they afford to be need-blind, where they accept students regardless of their ability to pay and commit to meet their need — at least as the college defines need? Or do they need to be need-aware, at least in the case of part of the class? ... There are students who don’t know that an institution like Princeton is so generous depending on your household income, and so sure, schools have to get out the word. Sometimes institutions like this can be immensely doable for the kids who may be least able to pay for this education. And that’s certainly a message that not every family has.
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