Following a January 18, 2017 article in the New York Times detailing the socioeconomic statistics of students at Colby and other elite colleges, many students on Mayflower Hill were shocked by the numbers. The statistics compiled by the Times ranked Colby fourth on a list of colleges that enrolled “more students from the top one percent than the bottom 60 percent.”
Four of the top ten colleges in the list were in the NESCAC: Colby, Trinity College, Middlebury College, and Tufts University.
he article states that the “median family income of a student from Colby is $236,100, and 76% come from the top 20 percent. Less than 1% of students at Colby came from a poor family but be- came a rich adult.”
Although many students seemed to be deeply troubled by the findings, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Matt Proto had a more well rounded view of the statistics. In an email to the Echo, Proto said that upon reading the article, his first reaction was that “we have made a lot of progress in a short period of time, but there is still more to be done.” Proto explained this progress by noting that the data from the article were from “approximately the Class of 2013.”
According to Proto, the College’s most recently enrolled Class of 2020 had three percent more students receiving financial aid than the Class of 2013—44 versus 41 percent. Proto also said that there was a 40 percent increase in Pell-eligible students between the two aforementioned classes. Though significant, the New York Times noted that the Obama administration expanded Pell eligibility, “which caused the number of Pell recipients at many colleges to rise.”
Proto said that since he arrived at the College one of his “major priorities” has been to improve the College’s outreach and communications “to ensure we are attracting the most talented students from all backgrounds.” One way the department of Admissions has approached this is through increasing the applicant pool from 4,500 applicants for the Class of 2013 to “approximately” 9,800 for the Class of 2020.
The original article states that 61 percent of Colby students coming from poor backgrounds have a chance to “become rich adults.” Proto reflected this sentiment by saying, “We know how transformative a Colby education can be and that students from lower income backgrounds tend to do well at Colby and go on to successful careers.” He continued, “The data is both heartening and a call to action—we need to…ensure the most talented students from all backgrounds are aware of the benefits of a Colby education and have the opportunity to study here.”
Although Proto is optimistic about Colby’s future accessibility to students of all back-grounds, he did not dismiss the importance of the controversial statistics, noting that access is “central to [their] mission” in Admissions.
The College meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need without packaged student loans and there is no fee to submit an admissions application, according to Proto. This policy is an important component in making the College accessible.
In 2014 the College increased the financial aid budget by $5 million over four years, allowing increased outreach to students in need. Additionally, increased partnerships with organizations like A Better Chance, the Davis United World College Scholars Program, the Posse Foundation, QuestBridge, and Yes Prep, alert more high school students to the College’s strengths, according to Proto.
Proto reiterated the success that a Colby education can provide and stated, “Our mission as a preeminent liberal arts college is to bring together highly talented individuals who will make the most of a Colby education and go on to make important contributions to the world. Our students from all socioeconomic backgrounds are doing just that.”