Task Force on the Composition of the Student Body

Chair, Members, Advisory, Liaison

Michelle McCauley, Chair
Murray Dry
Miguel Fernandez
Jim Ralph
Susan Watson
Roman Graf
Sue Levine
Kathy Lindsay
Patrick Norton
Russ Reilly
Dena Simmons '05
J. MacLeod Andrews '07
Becky Brodigan, advisory on Institutional Research
Mike Schoenfeld, liaison

Charge to Task Force

  • Identify strategies to further increase the academic quality of the student body, while maintaining an intellectually engaged and multi-talented student population
  • Consider our strategic and long range objectives and policies for student body composition
  • Assess progress and identify future directions for continuing to expand student diversity of many kinds, with special attention to groups that have been historically under-represented at Middlebury
  • Re-assess packaging in our financial aid programs, with a goal of reducing financial barriers for those students we accept and who require aid (Consult as appropriate with the Financial Aid Advisory Committee.)
  • Consider whether we have a need for an advisory committee on admissions policy and practice, and what its role might be

Executive Summary
May 2005

Note: Each Task Force Report is a collection of background information, analyses, and recommendations that are submitted to the Planning Steering Committee and the President. Over the summer, the Steering Committee and the President will review and discuss all 15 sets of recommendations together in the context of the College's available resources.

For the 2005-2006 academic year, Middlebury College received 5,253 applications for approximately 685 slots (565 for September and 120 for February). The overwhelming majority of those applications came from students with strong grades, high SAT scores, and many interesting experiences and accomplishments in high school. It is clear that most men and women who attend our institution come well prepared to make the most of their educational experience. They are, in fact, quite exceptional. We find, however, that Middlebury can make small but important changes to further enhance the quality of our student body. Middlebury College seeks engaged and inquisitive students with a global frame of reference who are civic minded and independent thinkers destined to be the leaders of tomorrow. We believe that a community of such students seriously committed to intellectual and academic pursuits is essential. We want to emphasize that the composition of the student body of Middlebury College continues, as it has been for many decades, to be comprised of truly outstanding women and men. We also recognize the highly competitive nature of the recruitment and matriculation of top students today. While Middlebury College must be aware of how successfully it competes with the most selective colleges and universities in the country, we believe that the recommendations mentioned in our report and the specific actions listed below will enhance the quality and diversity of the student body.

General Objectives Recommended

(1)Expand our long-standing policy of admitting the most academically gifted students, with the goal of increasing the yield from these students from 15 percent to 27 percent over the next six years
(2)Continue our efforts to increase the diversity of the student body (broadly defined to include racial, ethnic, and economic diversity, as well as diversity of thought)
(3) Provide enough need-based financial aid to meet the above goals
(4)Refocus the orientation program and shape student culture to increase the expectation of intellectual activity and engagement for those students who attend Middlebury College.

Specific Actions Regarding Admissions

▪ Create an Admissions Advisory Committee that would:
▪ Evaluate policy and practice of admissions
▪ Create a written admissions policy
▪ Consider adopting a pure academic rating of applicants
▪ Increase the transparency of the admissions process
▪ Provide final oversight for applicants
▪ Highlight the strength of our academic programs in our admissions publications
▪ Develop creative ways to recruit applicants and to matriculate top prospects
▪ Continue to have at least one faculty member reading files with the Admissions Office

Specific Actions Regarding Financial Aid

▪ Increase the amount of grant aid provided to students. Reduce the amount of self-help (loans and work-study packaged in the financial aid award). The reduction should be phased in over time, with the goal of, at least, packaging self-help at the average self-help as percentage of student budget for our peer schools. It is the recommendation of the Task Force that we reduce self-help for the 2006-2007 incoming class by $1000. This first step to reducing self-help will require approximately $200,000 - 250,000 in resources in the first year; $400,000 - $500,000 in the 2nd year; $600,000 - $750,000 in the 3rd year; and $800,000 - $1,000,000 in the 4th year (fully phased in). The goal of implementing this recommendation is to reduce the gap in grant aid between us and our peer schools so as to:
(1) attract more high quality students and (2) increase access to a high quality liberal arts education to high-need students.

▪ The Task Force strongly endorses the College's movement towards a Student Financial Services model. We believe that it is not only increased dollars that will win the battle for the best and brightest students - but also how student financial services are delivered.
▪ The Task Force recommends the creation of a Financial Aid Policy Committee. The outcome of implementing this recommendation would be to create a formal group and process to discuss, recommend, and direct institutional financial aid policy so as to: (1) attract more high quality students and (2) increase access to a high quality liberal arts education to high-need students.
▪ Reassess aid for international students. The College should renew its commitment to fund up to 10 percent international students - regardless of need.

Specific Actions Regarding the Diversity of the Student Body

▪ Increase the number of U.S. students of color who graduate to 15 percent within six years.
▪ Initiate a partner-program with a number of high schools whose populations are more diverse than ours and offer matriculation to their top students
▪ Employ a full-time Admissions Officer who resides in specific recruiting areas where we have not had much of a presence (West, South, Southwest)
▪ Attend special College fairs at high schools targeting students from underrepresented groups including gay, lesbian, bisexual students
▪ Heighten capacity with which Admissions Office is able to recruit students from underrepresented groups
▪ Continue and expand student surveys in collaboration with Institutional Research (for example add 10 questions related to diversity to our survey of First-Year students and seniors)
▪ Introduce a diversity element into our first-year student orientation
▪ Maintain our efforts regarding the ADA population on campus and work toward the principle of "universal access" on campus