Biola considers more than finances in enrollment decisions

Inside Higher Education’s survey shows most universities will favor a student’s ability to pay tuition over a solid academic performance.
Studies show that universities accept students based on their financial stability. However, Biola weighs all the attributes of an applicant, not just their purse. | Photo courtesy of Bethany Cissel/THE CHIMES
Studies show that universities accept students based on their financial stability. However, Biola weighs all the attributes of an applicant, not just their purse. | Photo courtesy of Bethany Cissel/THE CHIMES
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Some colleges across the nation are willing to admit students in better financial situations despite lower academic performances, according to a survey conducted by Inside Higher Education.

The survey of 344 four-year colleges and universities included admissions directors from both public and private schools. About a third of the private schools said the rough economic climate has forced them to look at a student’s ability to pay when making admission decisions, according to the report. Only 8.1 percent of the total colleges and universities surveyed disagreed with the practice of admitting full-pay students — those able to pay the full tuition without any aid — with lower grades and test scores.

Following a higher ethical standard

In spite of these statistics and the economic downturn, Biola continues to function on a different ethical standard. As a member of the North American Coalition for Christian Admissions Professionals, which encompasses admission and guidance workers from over 300 Christian high schools, colleges and universities throughout North America, Biola must adhere to the “Statement of Principles of Good Practice.”

“It’s like ethical guidelines for recruiting students,” explained André Stephens, senior director of Undergraduate Admissions. “[Admitting students based on their ability to pay] is not ethical to what we’re trying to achieve.”

Admissions employs a need-blind system in accordance with the NACCAP statement. This prohibits the school from looking at a student’s ability to pay when making admission decisions, Stephens said.

Even so, this recent development of admitting students despite poorer academic performances continues to build. The most important admissions strategy for 34.3 percent of the private institutions surveyed by Inside Higher Ed, was recruiting more full-pay students over the next two to three years.

Freshman Stephen Schloesser from Bend, Ore., who entered Biola with a 3.7 GPA, labels this admissions trend as a societal problem.

“Credentials shouldn’t define success.” Schloesser said. “It should be based on ability.”

Rewarding academic excellence

Because of the need-blind system, Biola factors other criteria more heavily on a student’s application than their ability to pay. Students’ academic histories continue to matter greatly. A large chunk of the scholarships Biola offers reward academic excellence, Stephens said.

Other NACCAP member schools similar to Biola continue to care about their students’ academics. The unweighted, average GPA for Azusa Pacific University’s 2011 incoming freshman class was 3.66 and Whitworth’s average was 3.68, while Biola’s was 3.54, according to their school websites.

Sophomore and California native Halie Homan received the dean’s scholarship from Biola because of her academic history and SAT scores. She also earned sizable scholarships from the two other schools where she applied.

“I was offered $13,000 a year from Loyola Marymount, and APU offered me more state scholarships,” she said.

Multiple factors affect enrollment decisions

There are two exceptions to Biola’s need-blind policy, Stephens said. The first exception has to do with the admittance of international students. In these cases, admissions must look at the students’ ability to pay in order to grant them a student visa.

The second exception has to do with timing. Students must decide which school they are going to attend by May 1, the national candidates reply date. Only after this date does the admissions office review the applications in light of the applicants’ financial status, Stephens said.

“At that point the aid starts running out,” Stephens explained. “We want to make sure the student can be successful here academically, financially and everything else, so if we don’t have aid to give them and they need a lot of aid, that can be a dicey proposition.”

Even then, other factors contribute to the admissions process more than finances.

“For us it’s more likely that later in the process it has to do with class availability, housing or what have you,” Stephens said. “It’s not about the student’s money, because the students we admit, we want to help.”

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Biola considers more than finances in enrollment decisions