Tufts University joins coalition for new college application platform

"The best part is when students come up to me and say, 'I'll see you next fall.' That just validates all that effort we put into Jumbo Days." -Lee Coffin Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily

This year, Tufts became one of approximately 80 schools that have joined the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, a free alternative college application platform that will go into effect for the 2017 admissions cycle. 

According to the Coalition’s website, the new application platform will provide various free tools to help students through the application process, with the hope of minimizing disadvantages faced by students who lack access to well-equipped guidance offices.

“[R]esearch has found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not participate effectively in the college application process, struggle with applying for financial aid and often do not get awarded all the financial aid they qualify for,” a Sept. 28 press release states. “As a result, even the most highly qualified students either do not attend college, attend a college that does not engage their full potential, or do not complete their degrees. Attending a high school with a college-going culture greatly increases students’ college success. The Coalition hopes to address these findings through its free online tools and increased transparency around admissions and financial aid.”

Dean of Admissions Lee Coffin noted that the Coalition’s aims are in line with Tufts’.

“I shared the goals of the Coalition to explore opportunities to improve the college admissions process, to level its playing field for low-income students and to leverage technology in new ways to achieve those goals,” Coffin wrote.

This platform, created in partnership with Portland-based technology developer CollegeNET, is meant to streamline the application and financial aid processes and help students begin the college process sooner, according to the press release. The Coalition application will provide online tools, such as a digital portfolio, a collaboration platform and an application portal 

According to Coffin, the Coalition application will not affect Tufts’ admissions process; the Coalition application and the Common App will be equal submission options in the same manner that students can opt to submit the SAT College Admissions Exam or the ACT, he said. 

“I don’t foresee any changes to Tufts’ admissions process,” Coffin told the Daily in an email. “The application platform does not influence the things we value and evaluate, only the means by which those elements are delivered to Tufts.”

Coffin wrote that the growing number of Coalition members includes a mix of both private and public institutions.

“Ten of the 11 members of NESCAC [New England Small College Athletic Conference] joined the Coalition, as well as all eight members of the Ivy League,” he said. “[The full list] includes a wide array of private as well as public universities and liberal arts colleges.”

In order for colleges to become members of the Coalition, they must meet certain membership criteria, Coffin wrote. All the Coalition’s members offer affordable education, and private universities must provide enough aid to meet the full demonstrated need of students applying in the United States.

“Each college must meet two membership criteria: the institution must meet 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need of applicants and the college must have a six-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent,” he said.

According to Coffin, the Coalition initiative was started two years ago by university admissions deans from the University of Chicago, Yale University and others.

“The initiative was originally spearheaded in 2013 by the admissions deans…who were dissatisfied with the status quo as the Common Application experienced significant technical issues that year,” he said. “The original founders felt the Common Application was not fully meeting their goals, and they began a conversation about an alternative to it.”

Meghan Dangremond, the associate director of admissions, said that Tufts has always been open to experimenting with new boundaries, in regards to the application process.

“The Tufts Admissions Office has never been one to cling blindly to tradition while balking at the new or unprecedented,” Dangremond, who is also vice president for membership of Overseas Association for College Admission (OACAC), told the Daily in an email. “We’ve experimented with video submissions, creative essay topics and assessment of non-cognitive factors.  The Coalition is an opportunity to break down limitations imposed by our existing platform, and allow Tufts to develop an application that suits our community and future Jumbos alike.”

According to Harvard University’s Associate Director of Communications Rachael Dane, Harvard joined the Coalition to increase the accessibility of its admissions process.

[Harvard] has always done everything possible to ensure that the college application process is accessible for all students,” Dane told the Daily in an email.

The Coalition’s platform is not yet complete, but Tufts Admissions is looking forward to working with the other Coalition member institutions, according to Dangremond.

“While the final product (and the path we’ll take to get there) is not yet determined, the conversations, motives and capacity for change are all encouraging,” Dangremond said. “We are excited to work with a group of institutions committed to access and success. We look forward to not just the application but the suite of tools that the Coalition will make available to all students in pursuit of higher education.”