Despite the struggling U.S. economy and a lowered endowment, the University of Richmond is staying true to its need-blind promise to applicants during the 2008-2009 admissions process.

According to a recent New York Times article, some small, private universities facing similar circumstances are looking more favorably on applicants who are wealthier than others, or those who can pay their tuition in full.

Admissions and financial aid officials ensure the same is not true of Richmond. Instead, the school will remain fully committed to maintaining its need-blind admission process and meeting 100 percent of the need demonstrated by undergraduate students, they said.

To date, the university has received 7,870 applications from students wanting to join the class of 2013, said Pam Spence, dean of admissions, in an e-mail interview. "This is the second-highest number in the university's history," she said.

Admission decisions were released to applicants on March 23, Spence said, and those students have until May 1 to respond.

Although the exact size of next year's freshman class is still unknown, the university's target class size is 805 students, she said.

Prospective students had to turn in financial aid applications by Feb. 15, and current students have until May 15. It is still too early for an exact number, but completed applications for financial aid from prospective undergraduate students are up 45 percent date to date, said Cindy Deffenbaugh, director of student financial aid.

"We have strongly encouraged students to complete their aid applications early this year, so that is likely a factor in the increase of applications, in addition to the economic situation," she said.

Currently, the university provides financial aid to 66 percent of the undergraduate community. Financial aid spending, i

including athletic grants, amounted to $39.4 million during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2007, and $45.3 million for 2008, said Herb Peterson, vice president for business and finance.

Deffenbaugh predicted a slight increase in financial aid spending for the 2009 fiscal year. "While year-end financial statements for the current fiscal year will not be available until later this year," she said, "I expect that comparable financial aid figures for the current school year ... will be close to $49 million."

According to the article in the New York Times, admissions representatives at schools such as Brandeis University and Bowdoin College, which are need-blind except for transfer or wait-listed students, have announced plans to admit more students from those demographics.

Deffenbaugh declined to comment on other institutions' decisions regarding the allocation of funds, but stressed the importance of Richmond's need-blind commitment and the Access and Affordability principle outlined in the Richmond Promise.

According to the final report on the Richmond Promise's Access and Affordability principle published Oct. 31, 2008, the university hopes to help students from low-income families that tend to shy away from applying to Richmond.

"This [tendency] has resulted in a student body that is lacking in socioeconomic diversity, along with a student and campus culture that itself may pose financial and other challenges for low-income students," according to the report.

While this year's process is still ongoing, some think the real concerns may come in the future. "The real question is: What effect will the economy have on colleges meeting their admission targets for 2009 and 2010?'" Spence said.

Contact Collegian reporter Guv Callahan at guv.callahan@richmond.edu

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