Your Higher Education Marketing Link of the Week… Whitman College: Early Decision Financial Transparency… 14 January 2022

Early Decision at Whitman College: If your Early Decision financial package isn’t good enough you don’t have to enroll

Whitman CollegeWhitman CollegeNot long ago Ron Lieber at the NY Times wrote an article chastising universities that did not tell Early Decision applicants that if their financial aid package didn’t meet their needs they were free to enroll elsewhere.

The more common practice, Lieber notes, is to remind Early Decision applicants that if they select this option they are required to enroll if admitted. Inadequate financial aid is not always (seldom?) noted as a withdrawal option. (Lieber also notes that ED isn’t legally binding, but that’s another issue). His article is here.

Lieber was motivated by what he felt were insufficiently clear website statements from some schools and paid special attention to Northeastern University. He then cited Whitman College and the College of Wooster as two schools where Early Decision applicants were indeed told on the school website that they did not have to enroll if they did not feel the financial aid award, including merit aid, was not sufficient.

Here we highlight the Whitman College approach.

Whitman gives potential ED applicants the message about the ability to decline admission in two places. Students (and parents) are unlikely to miss the Whitman message. The early decision page features 8 easy-to-scan questions. Financial aid is addressed immediately in the first question and again in the fifth question:

  • “What does it mean to apply Early Decision?”…  “When you apply Early Decision, you are committed to enrolling at Whitman once admitted. That means withdrawing your applications from other colleges as long as Whitman provides a financial aid award that makes attendance possible.”
  • “What about financial aid?”… “Your financial aid offer will include a breakdown of what we are offering you, including scholarships, grants, federal or state work study, and loans. However, if our generous aid package doesn’t quite meet your needs, you can be released from your Early Decision agreement.”

Whitman’s Early Decision process includes sending a financial aid award package along with the admissions acceptance. (Assuming that people have completed the financial aid application process.) Potential Whitman students are not being asked to withdraw other regular applications before they can review their actual cost status.

Early Decision I vs. Early Decision II

It makes sense that people who apply by an Early Decision I deadline, are admitted without an adequate financial aid award, and decline that offer are then free to apply elsewhere by an Early Decision II deadline if they wish to do that.

Follow the Link of the Week

See how one college makes it clear that inadequate financial aid is a reason to decline an Early Decision admissions offer at the Whitman College “Early Decision” page.

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