The Admissions and Recruitment Working Group, which was formed last spring as part of the University’s diversity initiative, recently released a list of recommendations to increase diversity in Georgetown’s admission’s and recruitment process. As President DeGioia and Provost James O’Donnell review the group’s recommendations, they should give special consideration to the value of socio-economic diversity, which is often overlooked.
The value of diversity lies in the educational benefits that come from interactions between students of different backgrounds. In past years, a great deal of attention has been devoted to accomplishing racial and cultural diversity at colleges, but less thought has been given to creating a student body drawn from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds. A student’s views and experiences will vary widely depending on his or her financial background, and a student body that draws primarily from the middle and upper-class will only have superficial diversity.
Ryan Wilson, who worked with the Admissions and Recruitment Working Group, said that the University recognizes it needs to do more to promote socio-economic diversity.
“Over half of Georgetown student’s families make well over the median income in this country,” Wilson wrote in an e-mail. “We acknowledged early in the process that this was the area that Georgetown was lacking the most.”
Georgetown will continue to suffer from a lack of socio-economic because the current structure of the admissions and recruiting process favors wealthier applicants.
The underlying problem is that students from wealthy families have numerous advantages in the college application process, while poorer students are less likely to even think about attending college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 51 percent of high school seniors from low socio-economic backgrounds expect to attain a bachelor’s degree, compared to 87 percent of seniors from high socio-economic backgrounds.
Even if they earn admission to Georgetown, poorer students are often deterred by the costs of attending the University. According to the Office of Admissions, this past year, 49 percent of accepted students who did not apply for financial aid matriculated, while only 39 percent of those admitted who did apply for financial aid ended up attending. Even the students that do accept financial aid from Georgetown could be considered wealthy: their median family income is $90,000, which is $40,000 higher than the national average. While Georgetown claims to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need, we’re clearly doing something wrong. Students who really need the aid are not getting as much as they would like from Georgetown and are deciding to attend other institutions instead.
To begin bringing real socio-economic diversity to Georgetown, administrators need to expand our financial aid program, work on actively recruiting students from lower income families, and begin giving preferences to applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds in admission.
With the launch of the 1789 Scholarship Initiative, Georgetown has already begun taking the first step. The initiative is designed to increase the amount of aid money for students that need it. Georgetown has shown admirable devotion to socio-economic diversity by maintaining its need blind policy during the economic crisis, even as other colleges have ended or delayed putting theirs into effect.
Georgetown currently has several pipeline relationships with schools like the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago to reach students that would generally not apply to Georgetown. Administrators should follow the suggestion of the Admissions and Recruitment working group and increase the number of pipeline relationships.
But the difference between Georgetown’s current student body and the socio-economically diverse ideal is so great that it cannot be overcome through conventional financial aid and recruitment efforts. In the interest of closing the gap, Georgetown should give special consideration to students from poor families, students whose socio-economic statuses have denied them the opportunities afforded to wealthier applicants. This is the only way Georgetown can expect to achieve true diversity quickly and effectively.
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