Rush to end EA programs is premature

The News supports, with significant reservations, the Yale administration’s decision to retain its early action program for the class of 2012. Nothing about college admissions is easily accomplished, and the News understands the cautious wait-and-see approach that Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel and President Richard Levin have adopted in the wake of Harvard’s and Princeton’s decisions to eliminate early admissions from their campuses.

But among the various and conflicting predictions of changing application numbers and yield rates, one fact has become clear: Something is flawed with the current admissions system, in which potentially qualified lower- and middle-income students are being shut out not because they lack talent, but because they are at a disadvantage under the current two-tiered structure of early and regular admissions. Harvard and Princeton presented this argument as the main rationale for dropping their early programs. The underlying logic is undeniable: Whereas privileged high-schoolers often have access to college counselors skilled in playing the admissions game, lower-income students generally attend schools without the resources to help them get into any four-year college, and certainly not the resources to help students research schools and prepare transcripts and recommendations so early in the academic year.

Yale’s administration was prudent, however, not to make such an important policy decision based on this idea. Eliminating early admissions is certainly a flashy choice, but its actual impact on the socioeconomic diversity of the class of 2012 remains unknown. The University should use the next two years to observe the changes to Harvard’s, Princeton’s and our own class of 2012 and gather the necessary empirical data about what impact, if any, the absence of early admissions has on the strength and diversity of incoming classes. Because students are more likely to matriculate at Yale when admitted early here, Yale would run a risk of losing top students to other universities were it to eliminate early action, and it would have been irresponsible of our administration to have made that gamble without being confident that the move would successfully broaden the class’ socioeconomic diversity.

We applaud the recent comments by Yale’s administration that acknowledge that Yale will not think much of the fact that next year’s yield will undoubtedly be lower than average. But rather than sit on the sidelines while Harvard and Princeton act as guinea pigs, Yale should renew its commendable focus on socioeconomic diversity by continuing to expand its recruitment efforts in nontraditional areas and continuing to seek out ways to improve its financial aid offerings.

That broader focus on other ways to improve the diversity of classes is particularly important because many experts, as reported Tuesday in the News, agree that the long-term ramifications of the shakeup are likely to be slight. What better time, then, for Yale to steal its rivals’ thunder and take the initiative to announce expanded recruitment of low-income students or — dare we mention it? — an increase in financial aid and a tuition freeze?