Strategic Planning

Working Group I: Whom Do We Want to Educate? information sheet

Members: Matthew Bergman '84, Kimberly Clausing, Ann Delehanty (co-chair), Kris Droste '16, Leslie Limper, Maryanne McClellan, Emma Mclean-Riggs '14, Margot Minardi, John Sheehy '82 (co-chair), Paul Silverstein, Annam Swanson '14, Keith Todd

The Whom Do We Want to Educate strategic planning group is charged with looking at our current admissions and financial aid policies to consider how we might employ strategies to improve those areas. We have identified several major areas where strategic planning is required.

Intellectual and Social Characteristics of Students

Reed has traditionally sought students who will respond to a demanding, intense, and rigorous program of study, who value independent and creative habits of thought, inquiry, and expression, and who are looking for a balance of breadth and depth in their academic goals with a focus on close student/faculty interaction.

  •  To what extent do we value non-academic traits and experiences (well-roundedness, leadership, participation in clubs and extracurricular activities, social orientation, etc.)?
  • Should we care about SAT scores, which studies show reflect class bias? Should we consider making Reed applications test-optional? Should we make use of an “academic index” to combine various numeric measures and decrease the importance of any single measure?
  • Are there elements of Reed’s culture that might need to change in order to attract a more diverse population of students?


Distribution of Students From Different Socio-economic Strata

The student body is increasingly composed of students from families able to pay full tuition (family income >$250,000/year) and those who are offered competitive financial aid packages (family income <$90,000/year), with a shrinking number of students who might fall in the middle of those two groups and who only qualify for marginal aid from Reed. Students from families with income between $90,000/year and $180,000/year yield at a lesser rate than lower income students, suggesting that those students may receive more attractive aid offers or merit scholarships at other schools.

  • Should Reed significantly increase its financial aid budget to improve the distribution of students from all socioeconomic strata?
  • Should Reed redirect financial aid from students in lower socio-economic groups, such as those with family incomes under $60,000, to attract and assist students across a broader economic spectrum? Should there be more balance in socio-economic diversity at Reed?

Need Blindness vs. Need Awareness

Roughly 10% of applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds are placed on the waiting list each year due to the college’s lack of sufficient financial aid. Moving to a need-blind admission process would require a sizeable increase in our endowment (highly speculative figures on the amount needed range from $150 to $300 million).

  • Should Reed devote its next capital campaign primarily to raising the funds for establishing a need-blind (while still meeting full need) policy? 
  • Are there incremental steps that might allow us to be more equitable in our distribution of financial aid and/or less aware of need in the admissions process?


Demographic trends indicate a growing diversity in the U.S. population in the coming decade. What should the goals for diversity be at Reed?

  • Should Reed continue to be affirmative for first-generation college students?
  • Should Reed continue to be affirmative for students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups?
  • Should Reed be willing to admit students who might require remedial academic support in order to diversify our student population?
  • What aspects of diversity are missing or underrepresented?

Full Pay Students

Reed’s financial model relies upon roughly 50% of the student body being able to pay full tuition. Competition for full pay students continues to increase, however, and Reed’s admission yield rate for these students is decreasing.

  • Should Reed offer merit aid to be more competitive in attracting these students?
  • Should we use merit aid to attract full pay students with higher SAT scores and high school GPAs? Or to attract full pay student with desirable non-academic traits (community builders, leadership, performing arts, etc.)?
  • Should financial aid be used strategically at all?

International students

The increasing demand in full-pay international students offers Reed numerous potential strategic advantages, including global diversity and, at least in the short term, a new source of tuition revenue. The percentage of self-identified international students within our entering class has risen from 4.5% to nearly 10% this past year.

  • How can we articulate the value of international diversity as part of Reed’s mission of educating a future global citizenry?
  • What should be our goals for increasing global diversity within our student body?
  • How might we maximize the variety of cultural dispositions and academic interests within our increasingly global student body while remaining committed to a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts education?

Of our 85 current foreign national students in degree-seeking programs, 45 are on some form of Reed financial aid, which tends to be especially costly because of lack of US governmental support.  Those admitted with aid are a highly select group of applicants, and historically have had greater success at Reed than full-pay international students who sometimes struggle with language competency and other classroom skills.

  • How might we best prioritize support for international students in terms of financial aid and student services?  Should we invest more on the front-end in terms of financial aid to admit the strongest possible group of international students, or on the back-end in terms of extra energy and programs to support those with particular academic needs?