Man we wrote a lot about Yale yesterday, talking about their new policy of reducing the application fee for those with lower incomes. Our position (sorry Yale) is that this is basically a gimmick, to get some press, and to throw the mantle of the do-gooder out into the world.
It kind of reminds us of the Brave Supplicant who scrambles to begin all these volunteering activities in the summer right before they apply to bschool. Aww, that’s great, look at you, you’re such a good person! You’re volunteering!
Yeah, such efforts are a little transparent. SkepticalSnark does not see Yale’s new policy making that big of a difference to very many people. Perhaps it’s only meant to be symbolic. An extra $50 in the pocket surely IS significant to someone on a very limited income – but how many of those are actually applying to Yale?
To its credit, Yale waives the app fee entirely for vets – not just active-duty servicemembers, which is how some schools implement their “military support”. That’s cool, Yale. Not all schools do this. (Note to the SOM adcom: You may want to include this waiver info in the app and your FAQ – assuming the policy is still valid. Right now it’s only listed on your Veterans special-interest page.)
However if they really wanted to put their money where their mouth is with encouraging these outlier candidates, why not ditch the fee entirely? Or make it a token $50 – that is, “token” from the perspective of the esteemed university. If someone makes as little as $10,000 a year, we don’t care where in the world they happen to live, $50 is a big deal – so yes, that means that Yale’s generous sliding scale is helpful, but it just underscores for us how expensive all of this stuff is.
Since we’re on this subject: The application fee is less at lower-ranked schools. For example, Emory’s fee is $150. That can’t be because it’s cheaper for them to process your application. The higher-ranked schools get it both ways: They’re popular, so they get a lot more apps, and they can charge more money (in so many cases, they’re charging you for the privilege of rejecting you – how is that for an injustice!). The whole “prestige” factor works both ways, it attracts more of you to apply and then it lets them justify a higher fee for you to submit.
Yet some schools a notch further down the rankings ladder actually charge NO FEE – SMU Cox in Dallas is one. Cox is a good school – sure, it’s not Yale, but they’re sending a great message: We want you to apply! Not sure how that affects the quality of the apps. We have heard at least one BSer say that they intended to apply there at the end of their process as a “just-in-case”; it does likely reinforce the “safety school” perception in some ways.
Duke does a great job of communicating its values through its policies: For many years now, they’ve had a program where they will reduce the fee if you attend an on-campus event or if you get an endorsement from a student or alumni. This is because they really (REALLY REALLY) want you to come visit and see what they’re about, and they also really value the community and appreciate it when someone has connections to the school. Another school that uses these policies effectively is CMU Tepper: They waive the fee for reapplicants. Now THAT’S reapplicant-friendly!
Do you know of any other school with innovative fee policies like this? Please post them in the comments below. You certainly shouldn’t be using the school’s application fee as a criteria by which to decide if you’ll apply or not, but it would be interesting to collect some other instances of schools that have programs in place that are truly applicant-friendly.