COUNCIL 1999-2000 Year-End Committee Reports

Admissions & Financial Aid

September 12, 2000

Scheduled for discussion at Council on October 4, 2000

The Council Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid (CAFA) received the following charge on September 30, 1999:

  1. Continue to review the University's admissions and financial-aid policies, in the context of its peer institutions, and make recommendations on how Penn might enhance its standing [with regard to its ability to attract applicants to its undergraduate programs] over time.
  2. In consultation with the Committee on Pluralism, review the tools available for recruiting and retaining a diverse student population, assess results and trends within those results, and make recommendations regarding changes or additions to the existing approach. Make a preliminary report to Council not later than the December 1999 meeting.
  3. Work with the Committee on Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics in their review of the status of student-athlete admissions [added to the CAFA charge after September 30, 1999].

At each of its meetings, CAFA received reports of progress in the 1999-2000 admissions process from Lee Stetson, Dean of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions (UGAO), and on the undergraduate financial-aid cycle from Bill Schilling, Director of Student Financial Aid (SFA). Those data have been reported elsewhere.

CAFA undertook a review of Leboy, Phoebe, On Recruitment and Retention of Minority Faculty and Students, (Almanac, 3/23/99, pp 3-6.) The Committee elected to confine its study of this report to the data on undergraduate admissions and retention, and to the tentative conclusions drawn from those data.

The data cited by Professor Leboy were provided by COFHE (Consortium on Financing Higher Education) in an effort to compare admission and retention statistics for various minority groups across the undergraduate schools of the Ivy League. COFHE solicited data from each participating school with a promise of confidentiality; thus, when the data were reduced, compiled, and reported back to participating schools, only the recipient school was named. Penn received a package in which its performance is compared against the Ivy League Low, High, Average, and Median in each of several categories.

Committee members recognized the basis for the concerns expressed by Professor Leboy, and also identified several unexplained numerical inconsistencies in the data as reported. The Committee charged the Chair to learn more about the protocols of data reporting from resource persons in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Penn. In consultation with Eric Kaplan of that office, the Chair learned that COFHE had offered no guidelines to participating schools as to how admission and retention data should be reported, and that each school had chosen to report its data in a form that suited either its convenience or its immediate purpose. For example, Penn did not list among its alumni/ae a substantial number of students who had met all academic requirements to graduate but still carried outstanding balances in student accounts; many other Ivies list those students as "graduated". The Committee concluded that the data on which the table cited in Leboy 1999 were based were not strictly comparable, and thus that the conclusions apparent from the data could not be supported (Professor Leboy expressed similar reservations in her report).

CAFA requested further information on undergraduate admissions and retention from Bernard Lentz, Director of Institutional Research and Analysis (IRA). Dr. Lentz' presentation was attended by members of both CAFA and the Council Committee on Pluralism.

It was apparent from Dr. Lentz' presentation and from subsequent meetings of Dr. Lentz and the CAFA Chair that IRA is in the process of gathering data about admissions and retention at Penn that are far more comprehensive than data provided to COFHE. Under the initial direction of Michael Wachter as Deputy Provost, the Council of Undergraduate Deans (CUD) and the IRA have convened a Retention Liaisons Working Group with representation from the central administration and from the four undergraduate schools. This group has put in place a comprehensive program of student support designed to track retention statistics closely and to intervene constructively in cases of students at apparent risk of failing to graduate in a timely manner.

CAFA learned that Douglas Massey, Professor and Chair of Sociology, has received a substantial multi-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enable him to undertake a comprehensive study of recruitment and retention of minority students at Penn and at 28 selective undergraduate schools.

CAFA requested information from the Admissions Office on programs currently in place to recruit minority undergraduates. Rodney Morrison, Director of Minority Recruitment of UGAO, briefed the Committee. Members of the Council Committee on Pluralism also attended that session.

Members of CAFA concluded that the resources currently dedicated by UGAO, SFA, CUD, and IRA to address questions of undergraduate recruitment and retention promise that CAFA will soon have access to data far superior to what our Committee has studied in past years. The Committee members agreed to defer further discussion of recruitment and retention of minority undergraduates until some of those data become available. CAFA commends the scope and focus of Penn programs now in place and under development to address both perceived and real problems of recruitment and retention of minority students, and recommends that Bernard Lentz (or his designee) is appointed an ex-officio member of CAFA.

CAFA received from undergraduate members of the Committee a proposal by the Undergraduate Assembly (UA) to modify existing procedures in awarding undergraduate financial aid. The proposal would enable each aided undergraduate to spend one summer in an unpaid internship or volunteer position without incurring the obligation to contribute summer earnings that year toward the self-help component of financial aid. Undergraduate members of CAFA offered a compelling case that, as a consequence of the requirement that each aided undergraduate make a contribution from summer earnings to the self-help component of his/her aid package, aided undergraduates have been denied educational and community-service opportunities available to fellow students not receiving financial aid.

While CAFA recognized that it is beyond the capacity of the University to provide aided students with all the opportunities available to their wealthier classmates, the Committee concluded that the UA proposal offered substantial academic benefit at relatively low cost. CAFA endorsed the UA proposal on February 17, 2000, in a letter to Provost Robert Barchi.

The Office of Student Financial Aid moved quickly to announce the availability of Summer Savings Waiver Awards to aided undergraduates, and solicited applications for such awards from that community. The announcement appeared after many students had made summer plans, but 133 applications were received. Of those, 108 were approved by a committee appointed by Student Financial Aid (the Chair of CAFA was included), and 24 were denied. Of the 24 applications denied, 13 were deemed to fall outside the scope of the award program, 10 were from students whose compensation for summer internships would equal normal summer earnings, and 1 was received too late to be considered. One of the applications is still under review.

CAFA and the Office of Student Financial Aid anticipate a larger number of applications for Summer Savings Waiver Awards in future years.

Late in the year CAFA requested a briefing on the complex processes of recruitment and admission of student athletes to the undergraduate student body. Members of the Committee were briefed by Martin Bonilla, UGAO, and Rosemarie Burnett, Assistant Director of Athletics, and decided to recommend that a review of those procedures be placed on the calendar of CAFA for 2000-2001.

--Robert F. Giegengack, Chair

1999-2000 Council Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid

Chair: Robert F. Giegengack, geology; Faculty: Larry Gladney, physics & astron; Paul Korshin, English; Abba Krieger, statistics; Kathy McCauley, nursing; Warren Seider, chem engr; Susan Silverton, dental; Dwight Stambolian, ophthalmol/med; Graduate/professional students: Victor Calanog, Wharton; Jeffrey Daman, Law; Evis Cama, GAS; Undergraduate students: Tiffany Hinton, EAS; Hardik Chaudhari, EAS; Kathryn Whitfield, SAS; PPSA: Afi Roberson, African American Res Ctr; Ex officio: Terri Conn, for vice provost university life; Suzanne Kauffman Deputy, Wharton; Sharon Pepe, Penn Plan; William Schilling, student financial aid; Willis Stetson, admissions; John Vohs, SEAS.

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 5, September 26, 2000

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