Jeffrey Parker, Reed’s George Hay Professor of Economics, teaches a class called “The Economics of Reed.” He says the current policy is “in a sense antithetical to the Reed ideal,” but insists that financial limitations leave the college just three options, all flawed: restoring the old come-anyway policy, gapping financial aid, or remaining need-aware.
“There are probably faculty members who are uncomfortable with that idea, but there are also people who don’t want to admit we have budget constraints,” Parker says. “It comes down to reality versus an ideal.”
The way Diver sees it, the college is coming as close to the ideal as the real world allows. If Reed can’t afford to be completely need-blind, he says, “I’d rather violate equity at the margins of the admission process” than dilute the school’s academic quality.
“I’d like to be the president to achieve and announce to the world that Reed has finally become need-blind,” Diver continues, adding that the privilege will likely go to a successor. “We all want to live in a first-best world. All these strategies—gapping, come-anyway, need-aware—are second-best-world strategies.”
For students who make it to Reed thanks to financial aid, though, it’s hard to see anything second-best in the outcome. Joe Kliegman could have gotten a full ride at the University of Washington, but he may not have gone mountain climbing with his professors or co-authored a paper published in a prestigious journal. And he might not be aiming for a top graduate program to continue the research he began in his senior thesis with Reed chemistry professor Arthur Glasfeld.
Joe’s parents, Hannah and David Kliegman, paid a heavy price for their son’s launching, contributing tens of thousands of dollars on top of Reed’s generous aid package.
Over the years, they’ve lived frugally, cutting corners and making do with older cars, to allow Joe and Sarah, who is now in graduate school in Minnesota, to attend Reed.
“There were many things they appreciated having the opportunity to experience,” Hanna Kliegman says of her children. “And we vicariously appreciated it all, too.” Neither she nor her husband has a B.A.
“There are so many times when I’ve been on campus,” she says, “and I’ve seen the president walking around, and I’ve wanted to go up to him and say, ‘Thank you so much.’”