Hamilton's recent decision to adopt a need-blind policy in admission despite a still-turbulent economic climate has earned wide praise from national and local media, alumni, parents and friends of the College. The policy means the College will make admission decisions without considering applicants' ability to pay.
The Huffington Post put it simply: Hamilton is "bucking trends." The New York Times' Jacques Steinberg noted, "At a time when some colleges are favoring applicants who do not require financial aid," Hamilton "has decided to swim against that tide." Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, wrote, "The fact that you are able to do it now — in the middle of an economic downturn when many colleges are retrenching — speaks volumes about the importance the Hamilton community attaches to enhancing educational opportunity."
The applause wasn't universal. Thomas Donlan '67, editorial page editor of Barron's National Business & Financial Weekly, argued that the College "can admit whomever it pleases, and give them financial aid as it pleases, but pretending that money doesn't matter is a psychological error and a bad lesson." Nevertheless, Sally Sands P'07 lauded the College for "taking the lead at such an important time, making a difference and doing the right thing." And Emily Stern Duwel '83 echoed the comments of many graduates in praising Hamilton "for having taken an ethical and generous stance in challenging times."
The decision, effective this fall with the arriving Class of 2014, has been on the College's agenda for a number of years — the 2009 strategic plan identified need-blind admission as a "long-term goal" — but it became a reality in December, when five members of the Board of Trustees pledged $500,000 each in "bridge funds" so that the College could accelerate its timetable. A sixth made a similar pledge in March, when the board unanimously approved the policy.
Chairman A.G. Lafley said good management practices allowed Hamilton to move ahead with the policy despite the downturn in the economy. He cited the recent decision by Moody's Investors Service to reaffirm the College's strong Aa2 rating. Moody's cited Hamilton's "continued favorable market position," "robust operating performance" and "conservative fiscal practices" in its assessment earlier this year.
"We are taking this step now to make a bold statement about what we value as a college and to position Hamilton for the long term," said Lafley, who recently retired as chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble. "Protecting our legacy as a school of opportunity is our highest priority. We are fortunate to have the resources to meet this objective, because it's the right thing to do for Hamilton."