College Guide


June 13, 2012 11:00 AM “Credit Positive” Actions at Wesleyan University

By Daniel Luzer

Late last month Wesleyan University announced plans to end its decades-long policy of need-blind admissions.

The new plan will begin for the class of 2014. Many students and advocates object to the new policy but, according to a Reuters article by Hilary Russ in The Hartford Courant:

Moody’s Investors Service on Monday suggested Wesleyan University’s shift away from its admission policy of accepting students regardless of their financial means could be the model for other small private colleges.
“These actions…are credit positive for Wesleyan, as well as other selective private colleges that could look to this model as an avenue for growing tuition revenue in an increasingly difficult higher education market burdened by stiffening tuition price resistance and rising student loan burden,” Moody’s said.


The fact that the decision is financially good doesn’t have much to do with whether or not it’s actually a positive or necessary development for elite colleges to take in order to preserve their intellectual quality.

From Moody’s perspective, in fact, it would be “credit positive” for Wesleyan to offer as little financial aid as it possibly can while still maintaining current enrollment practices.

American colleges first began to offer need-blind admissions, which admit students without regard to financial resources, in the 1980s in response to student demands for more inclusive and equitable polices. Wesleyan students protested the university administration’s attempt to remove the need blind policy in 1982 and 1992. In both cases Wesleyan backed down.

Tuition apparently made up 63.5 percent of Wesleyan’s operating revenue last year, according to the article.

Wesleyan’s enjoys an endowment of $601 million, significantly lower than comparable institutions.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • jonas on June 13, 2012 8:51 PM:

    So what's their pitch going to be now? "Come to Wesleyan and be part of a dynamic and diverse student body: the rich, the very rich, and the super rich!"

  • James E Powell on June 14, 2012 12:47 AM:

    The fact that the decision is financially good doesnít have much to do with whether or not itís actually a positive or necessary development for elite colleges to take in order to preserve their intellectual quality.

    What are you thinking? Whether an action makes money is the only metric that matters in America. Anything else is Kenyan Muslim Socialism.

  • Stephen S. Power, Wes '89 on June 14, 2012 9:14 AM:

    I should note: Wesleyan cost around $15K a year when I went there, Jesus, nearly 25 years ago, and I was fortunate enough not to need loans. And that was expensive as colleges went back then. Now it costs $50K a year. There's no difference in the education. But the amenities are resort quality. Ridiculous. Wes has always had the staggeringly rich--you know it's Parents Day when middle-class Middletown is suddenly awash in German cars not made for those folks--but you'd never know they were staggeringly rich. I doubt that will be the case going forward. Congrats, Wes, now you're f'n Williams.

  • Stephen S. Power '89 on June 14, 2012 9:46 AM:

    Wait: the Reuters article now says Wes will be $58,500 a year! Holy crap!

  • Art Nevsky on June 14, 2012 10:51 AM:

    I was a graduate student at Wesleyan in the early 70s, and it was known to have a (for that time and its size) a large endowment from selling off a group of educational publications for K-12 students (My Weekly Reader and others) to a commercial publishing company. I'm sorry to hear that they didn't find other ways of increasing or maintaining their endowment.

  • Ron Medley on June 15, 2012 1:13 PM:

    The Moody's report neglected to mention that Wesleyan would be devoting $50 million to its financial aid budget once the new policy takes effect, a nominal sum higher than any other "little ivy" (Amherst, Williams, etc.).