By Lizzie Kane ’22
Davidson’s acceptance rate increased this year due to its desire for a larger class size and uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The feasibility of travel for international students this fall is unknown, and many students and their families could be experiencing great financial burdens. This admissions increase has been a trend among many colleges and universities, including Columbia University and Franklin & Marshall College.
As of Saturday, March 21st — when the day regular admissions decisions came out for Davidson — the acceptance rate was 19%, a .9% increase from last year. The number of accepted students will only increase as students are brought off the waitlist.
According to the Davidson Factfile, the college’s acceptance rate had been on a downward trend until this year, as the acceptance rate in 2015 was 22.1% and fell to 18.1% last year. When the 2008 financial crisis hit, Davidson’s acceptance rate decreased from 28.2% in 2007 to 25.7% in 2008 and then increased again in 2009 to 26.4%.
In addition to the unpredictable size of the incoming class in the fall, there are many questions remaining related to the economic crash the world is experiencing.
Asked if Davidson is equipped to increase financial aid for students due to the current economic decline, Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Christopher Gruber said that the office would start looking at appeals as of April 1st, yet they had received less than a dozen as of Friday, March 27th.
“I could look in an admissions file, and if I by chance saw that parents were working in a service industry — perhaps they were servers in a restaurant, as an example — I know what that means here: I know they don’t have that capacity to earn during this time,” Gruber said.
Gruber noted that his office has been “heavily involved” in assisting with room and board refunds for current Davidson students, a measure President Carol Quillen has prioritized.
During this pandemic, it is difficult to know how long the economic crisis is going to last and figure out whose wages have been depleted or been cut entirely due to a lack of official financial statements. The Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) draws off of people’s finances from the year prior. The FAFSA, as of now, cannot account for families’ recent financial losses.
“How do I verify that somebody has lost their position or that their wages have been severely cut? Then how do I know when those things go back into play?” Gruber began. “This is what all colleges are talking about right now: What do we do right now in the absence of firm documentation?”
Gruber is also unsure of whether the office will make changes to its financial support to families for one semester or for a year. He did confirm that Davidson would allow international students or students hit hard by the financial crisis to defer their acceptances if they cannot come this fall.
Nick Nguyen ’22, who published a Davidsonian opinion piece entitled “First-Generation, Low-Income Students Need More Support,” weighed in: “In general, institutions’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic really show if an institution truly supports first generation and/or low-income students. Davidson has definitely taken steps in the right direction, but progress and improvement should never have a hard end goal. Constantly improving resources should be a must.”