It’s no secret that elite schools like Georgetown University are often reserved for the rich. However, the majority of these schools seemingly make an effort to allow more diversity in income in their student body. Prestigious schools often offer immense financial aid and even advertise to lower income students.
“Our mission is to make it financially possible for every admitted applicant to attend Georgetown University, ensuring that we recruit, retain, and graduate a talented and diverse learning community,” Georgetown’s financial aid website states.
The biggest stance to encourage lower income students to pursue these universities is their need blind policy.
Brown University’s financial aid website explained that “[n]eed-blind admission simply means that applicants’ ability to pay for their education will not be a determining factor in the admission decision.” This policy allows many of the most prestigious US colleges and universities to legally work together to create financial aid formulas.
While antitrust laws working together with other organizations to come up with a set boundary is not allowed, these universities gained an exemption due to their need blind status. With this exemption, 28 colleges and universities created a group titled the 568 presidents group.
The group makes an “effort to maintain a need-based financial aid system that is understandable and fair and will bring greater clarity, simplicity, and equity to the process of assessing each family’s ability to pay for college,” according to their website. This group came up with a Consensus Approach that creates a common sense of standards to determine a family’s ability to pay for college.
However, this approach is woefully inadequate if need blind admissions are not prevalent.
In response to a possible lack of need blind policy, a class action lawsuit was filed on Jan. 9 against 16 universities including Yale, Georgetown and Northwestern. Other named defendants in the suit are Brown University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University and Vanderbilt University.
Five former students of these universities are the plaintiffs of the lawsuit.
To many, this lawsuit was shocking; however, those connected to these schools were not. Despite a forced public image of diversity in most of these schools, there is usually still a majority of white wealthy students. Georgetown University is still 51% white and 44% of students came from households with $110k+ income levels, according to Niche.
There is also a major feeder system between boarding schools and these top tier colleges and universities. Georgetown University’s student newspaper reported that in 2014 of the top 12 high schools that fed into Georgetown eight were boarding schools.
The boarding school pipeline has undoubtedly continued. Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite boarding school in Connecticut with an average class size of 237, reported that between 2017 and 2021, they have had 53 students go to Yale University, 44 students go to Columbia University, and 29 to Georgetown University. All three of these schools are included in the need blind lawsuit.
Despite efforts of boarding schools to promote diversity, there is still an overwhelming white and wealthy student body; just like elite universities.