Is retrenching, ever so modestly. The student body and faculty will shrink a little, but the college doesnt want to let go of any students who are actually paying the sticker price. This has folks worried about "diversity":
And when people at Oberlin talk about a fear that students may end up being more “vanilla,” they aren’t just talking about race, but about style and values. While it’s easy to overstate college stereotypes, Oberlin students say there is plenty of truth to the idea that their college attracts many students who are artsy, liberal, idealistic and individualistic.
“Now it seems like the school may be looking for more students who are mainstream and from conservative or wealthy families,” said Marshall Duer-Balkind, a junior who is a member of the Student Senate. He said there is a “major, major concern” among students about how this would play out, even as they acknowledge that they can’t be sure how admissions will change. “The worry is that the college will lose the students with individuality and quirkiness.”
Why, I ask, should students from wealthy families be more "mainstream," i.e., conservative and hence boring, than others? I would think that kids who had grown up with "all the advantages," like trips abroad and after-school and summer enrichment programs, could be just as "artsy, liberal, idealistic, and individualistic" as the next guy, if not more so. Or does all the enrichment just end up homogenizing them, cranking out the cookie cutter elitists about whom
Ross Douthat complains? Or is it that many of the really interesting products of all this enrichment end up going elsewhere?
Joan Casey, a private admissions counselor in Brookline, Mass., said that while students she works with think of Oberlin as a very good college, many students “don’t want to go to school in what they would call the middle of nowhere.” (While Oberlin boasts a remarkable cultural scene, in large part courtesy of the conservatory, it is in rural Ohio, 40 miles from Cleveland.)
[How far is Ashland from Cleveland?]
Michael London, the founder of College Coach, a nationwide private admissions service, said that he too thinks of Oberlin as a very strong college. But as he looks at where counselors encourage students to enroll, he’s seen Oberlin “down a notch” from the places it aspires to compete with.
“A Vassar is an A- [high school average], 1400 SAT school, and a Wesleyan is a little higher than that, and Oberlin is more of a B+ 1300 school,” he said. “They may be guilty of thinking that they are stronger than they are.”
Im tempted to chalk these comments up to Eastern blue state geographic snobbishness, but Oberlin apparently loses head-to-head competitions for students with Grinnell and Carleton,which are in small towns in Iowa and Minnesota, for gosh sakes! (Im betting that the dirty little secret is that Grinnell and Carleton are offering more generous discounts, er, I mean, scholarships than is Oberlin, though this table suggests a modest reputational difference.)
Oberlins strategic plan
calls for increasing faculty salaries, reducing the teaching load to allow faculty members to have more time for research and professional activities, renovating student dormitories, expanding athletic opportunities at both the intramural and varsity level, and creating new programs to recruit minority students and faculty members.
This, of course, takes money, which is precisely what they seem to need. You need to have money, it would seem, in order to get money. I have a different suggestion: rather than trying to be like schools that are wealthier, Oberlin should seek to be distinctive. Not distinctive as in distinctive just like everyone else (the usual game in the top tiers of higher education), but really distinctive. Why not, say, invite the Ashbrook Center to relocate from Ashland?