Increasing student diversity pays off

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October 14, 2010

5:23 PM

The College of William and Mary needs money. Its state support has dwindled, and soon it will not even have stimulus money to depend on. In the fall 2010 William and Mary alumni magazine, President Taylor Reveley said, “We must do something to get [our system] back on a solid financial foundation.” In his address to the College parents during Family Weekend, Reveley delivered a speech on the same issue, asking parents to donate what they could to help the school.

According to an article published in The Virginia Gazette, Reveley is attempting to decrease the College’s 65 to 35 ratio of in-state to out-of-state students in order to garner funds. Reveley said in the alumni magazine article that this is one of the solutions to the College’s financial problems: “If some state universities are to receive less state support in the future than … under past practice, then they must in turn be allowed to have the out-of-state students and to charge the in-state tuition essential to bridging the gap.” Since out-of-staters pay over $21,000 more per year than students from Virginia, this is certainly a logical and substantial piece in the puzzle that comprises our financial solution. However, does this piece quite fit?

Having more out-of-staters will not only diversify the College (sorry, NOVA kids), but it will also bring in much-needed funds. The question to address regards morality: Is the College going to accept more out-of-staters purely because they are not from Virginia? (And regardless of money, is this really the way we want students of the College to be selected?)

It is a difficult question to address. If the College were to have the fairest application process possible, admissions officers would disregard students’s gender, ethnicity and home location when reviewing essays, test scores and activities. I think it safe to say that very few people at the College desire to spend time only with others exactly like themselves.

Having more students from out of state will not in itself lower the quality of the student body, unless more qualified applications from Virginia students are rejected in favor of less qualified applicants from other states. If admissions officers know the reason for the change in the ratio, however, they have an automatic incentive to accept more students from other states. This will box out the same number of in-state students, who may or may not be more qualified than accepted out-of-staters. This is essentially reverse discrimination.

I applaud Reveley for seeking out innovative, realistic solutions for this university’s financial issues. The decision he — and all of us — must make is whether money or integrity is more important. People should be accepted to the College on account of their hard work, talent and desire to attend and not because of state boundaries.

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