Staff Editorial: The University’s early decision program puts low-income students and students of color at a disadvantage

Center for American Progress survey raises questions about impact of early decision

Staff Editorial: The University’s early decision program puts low-income students and students of color at a disadvantage

A report published in November 2019 by the Center for American Progress raised questions about the impact of early decision programs on low-income students and students of color. AU’s active participation in early decision and large gap between ED and RD acceptance rates, 81 percent and 29 percent respectively, according to the U.S. News and World Report, bring it to the forefront of the conversation. As an institution that touts its diversity and inclusivity, the University seems to be willfully unaware of the group of students that are less likely to step foot on campus partly due to AU’s ED policy. 

Perhaps the largest factor in any college commitment is the financial aid package a student will be receiving, and early decision prevents any prior insight on that front. By inhibiting students from factoring financial aid into their choice of college, early decision effectively excludes the students that need to understand their options before making a significant financial commitment to an institution. AU’s participation in early decision perpetuates that cycle of denying access to low-income students. Additionally, the clear acceptance advantage to applying ED at an institution may not be made apparent to first-generation students without the experience and guidance in their lives to help them go through a process as complicated as a college application. 

A well-known aspect of the University’s student body is the general lack of socio-economic diversity. The 81 percent ED acceptance rate undoubtedly has some role in the disparage of diversity at AU on multiple levels. Less low-income students and students of color applying means less of those students are accepted and ultimately incorporated into AU’s campus culture. 

A large part of ED acceptance also rests in demonstrated interest and a level of perceived commitment to attending the University. The ability to show demonstrated interest is largely based on the financial capacity of the prospective students and their families as it involves taking the time and money to travel to AU’s campus. This creates yet another disadvantage for a group of potentially very committed applicants on the basis of income. 

ED doesn’t necessarily favor the smartest and most qualified students that could be attending AU; instead, it rewards those who have the ability to demonstrate their interest and the financial security needed to attend, regardless of the financial aid package they may receive. This is why early action acceptance would be a significantly better application choice to make for those who are hesitant to apply ED. It still demonstrates the level of commitment a student has to a school without placing undue burden on an applicant with greater financial worries. Not only would EA help even the playing field, but it would also increase the potential for greater diversity on campus. 

The lack of diversity within early decision acceptance excludes much needed voices in AU’s community, and early decision is just another way of preventing those voices from being present and heard. Putting time and money into efforts such as recruiting from socio-economically diverse districts and accepting other representations of demonstrated interests would open up AU’s campus to students that would truly make in an enriched and representative community.

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