Letter to the Editor: Early decision

Disclaimer: Astrid Weng is a graphics editor at the Daily. She was not involved in the editing of this letter. Catherine Perloff, one of the contributors to the Enigma article “Economic Diversity at Tufts,” is the editor-in-chief of the Daily. She was not involved in the writing or editing of this letter.

We write in response to “The early bird applicant: Trends in early admissions at Tufts,” published on March 1. As authors of a Tufts Enigma article looking at the economic diversity of the student body, we are extremely concerned by the university’s increasing reliance on early decision admissions.

In a survey of the economic backgrounds of 452 students, conducted in March 2016, we found that students who applied early decision are far less likely to receive financial aid than those who applied regular decision. The numbers are striking — only 38 percent of early decision applicants in our survey, as opposed to 54 percent of regular decision applicants, said they received aid.

At the time, we speculated that this disparity could be in part because early decision applicants do not have the opportunity to juggle multiple financial aid offers to choose the best option. We seem to have been on to something. In the Daily article, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Enrollment Management Karen Richardson says that “the admissions office advises potential applicants that ED may not be the best option for students who wish to compare financial aid packages, as applicants will have to make a binding commitment to attend the university if admitted.”

As it would be hard for students in need of financial aid to commit to a school without knowing what they will get in their aid package, early decision produces a wealthier pool of applicants. As tuition rises rapidly — in absolute numbers, far faster than financial aid — the pressure to admit students who will pay the full price, and who do not require tightening financial aid dollars, can only be increasing. A relatively easy way to accomplish this would be to admit more students early decision.

Indeed, half of the student body is now being admitted through early decision, up more than ten percent from just a few years ago. Even as Tufts has gotten much more selective overall, the Daily’s data show that the percentage of early decision applicants accepted has actually been increasing.

In short, we suspect that increased early decision admissions is being used to sidestep low-income and middle-class applicants. Even if this is not the intent, it is most likely the effect.

We would love to be proven otherwise.

Thank you,

Nathan Foster, Greta Jochem, Thomas Morin and Astrid Weng

Current and former data journalists, Tufts Enigma