As part of the PCACAC AP Committee’s desire to proactively discuss ethics, we will be sending out monthly “case studies.” In these cases, we will offer a situation and discuss whether the issue is in compliance with NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practices (SPGP). This month’s case is an adaptation of one used last spring with a new wrinkle. If you have a question about a situation or SPGP, please contact a member of the AP Committee.
October Case: A student has come to see her counselor first thing in the morning. Visibly upset, the student says, “Mr. C, I don’t know what to do. I just received this letter about a scholarship from JustAnother U. They say that I have to deposit to keep the scholarship. But, I have not heard from my other colleges. What should I do?” The student passes the letter to the counselor, and the letter does say, “To guarantee your scholarship, please send your deposit.”
Is this situation compliant with NACAC’s SPGP?
Discussion: One of the most common violations of NACAC’s SPGP relates to colleges not adhering to the May 1 Common Reply date. According to SPGP Mandatory Practice II. B. 3., “All postsecondary members agree they will: permit first-year candidates for fall admission to choose among offers of admission and institutionally-affiliated financial aid and scholarships until May 1, and state this deadline explicitly in their offers of admission, and not establish policies nor engage in practices whose effect is to manipulate commitments prior to May 1.” In this case, the situation is unclear about whether the college is adhering to the May 1 common reply date because they are not following the direction to “state this deadline explicitly in their offer of admission.”
Lou Hirsh, National AP Chair, recently wrote, “One thing we are trying to impress upon colleges is that, apart from Early Decision, the only deposit/confirmation deadline that a college may cite is ‘May 1.’ That means that none of the following statements is acceptable:
• Congratulations on being awarded our Presidential Scholarship. Presidential Scholars have until March 15 to return the enclosed form to let us know that they are accepting their award. Tuition deposits must be submitted no later than May 1.
• Congratulations on your Presidential Scholarship. To accept their award, Presidential Scholars must submit a tuition deposit no later than March 15. Deposits are refundable if students cancel their admission no later than May 1.
• Congratulations on your admission. We would appreciate your submitting a deposit within 30 days of the receipt of this letter, but no later than May 1.
What is acceptable is a statement like this: "Since there are other students to whom we will offer this award if you decide to decline it, we would appreciate hearing from you as soon as you have made your decision but no later than May 1."
What still remains a "grey" area is housing. When a college cannot house all of its first-year students, we must grudgingly acknowledge that they may need to assign housing on a first-come, first-served basis (which, of course, benefits early depositors) or set a housing deposit deadline that falls before May 1.
On the other hand, when schools have sufficient housing and -- especially -- when schools have a policy of requiring first-year students to live on campus, then these early deadlines seem to have only one purpose, and that is to manipulate students into depositing before May 1.”
Conclusion: What should Mr. C do? In the short term, he or the student might want to call JustAnother U to ask for clarification about the deadline. The college may be following the May 1 common reply date. If not, Mr. C should also be prepared to ask for an extension to May 1.
Whether May 1 becomes an issue or not, Mr. C should also complete a NACAC Confidential Complaint form so the National Committee or Regional Committee can follow up with JustAnother U. The counselor’s and the student’s name and school will be kept confidential, but the information will be forwarded to the appropriate affiliate AP committee. This committee will follow up on the issue in order to help the college understand the importance of SPGP II. B. 3. and work fairly with all students.
If you wish to file a complaint, please complete a NACAC Confidential Complaint form. All personal information will be kept confidential, but the information will be forwarded to the appropriate affiliate AP Committee. This committee will follow up on the issue.
Want to review previous case studies?
View all of the Admissions Practices Case Studies on The Anchor here.
Want to submit a case for consideration? Please e-mail the PCACAC AP Committee Chair at email@example.com