Principle 4: Swarthmore strives to enroll students who will thrive intellectually, socially, and personally while helping enrich our community. We value access as an individual opportunity for students and as an institutional responsibility to educate students who—collectively—represent the world.

Demographic trends, along with the current uncertain economic climate, suggest that we look even more closely at our recruitment efforts to ensure that our commitments to access and diversity remain strong. Our admissions efforts have fared well during the economic downturn, but some families express concerns about the value and perceived cost of a liberal arts education. Although the College received its largest applicant pool to date this past year, we must continue to communicate the value of a liberal arts education to a broader audience and respond to mounting pressures challenging the merits of residential liberal arts colleges.

Swarthmore must better communicate its commitment to access for qualified students from all backgrounds, regardless of financial circumstances. The College’s need-blind admissions and financial aid packages that meet each family’s calculated need have enabled us to create a community of students from a wide range of economic, geographic, and cultural backgrounds. This diversity has enriched the lives of all students and helped Swarthmore prepare leaders to engage broadly in their chosen careers and civic lives, but its value must be conveyed widely and more forcefully.

The College remains committed to its fundamental admissions and financial aid principles, which were re-examined carefully in the strategic planning process. Academic excellence remains the primary quality we seek in our students, including intellectual curiosity and a deep desire to understand and think critically. Other important qualities are creative thinking; a willingness to question; an ability to probe, to see, and to work with complexity; and initiative—a drive to accomplish challenging goals that require courage, dedication, and hard work.

At Swarthmore, the goal for all of our students should be to thrive intellectually, socially, and personally. Just as we consider students’ various aspirations and dreams, aptitudes and potential, we should also value their ability to thrive at Swarthmore. Defining what we mean by thriving should be a practice that is routinely revisited and refined.

The strategic planning process affirmed the need to recruit individuals on their own merits but also to do so in the context of building a strong community. The individual and community are strengthened when students learn in a community that is diverse intellectually; socioeconomically; socially; politically; and in terms of religious, cultural, and racial identity; as well as balanced in terms of gender. Students who want to make a genuine difference in the world; students who are interested in excelling professionally; students from rural, suburban, and urban areas; and students who are the first generation in their families to attend college benefit individually and collectively when they come together at Swarthmore.

Swarthmore often feels to me like a real-life social experiment with lots of soon-to-be sociologists and scientists and humanities scholars trying to integrate the theory that they learn in the classroom…that creates a very curious combination of self-reflection and an intense desire to live and make change.

Camille Robertson, ’13

It is critical that our financial aid and admissions principles, policies, and practices support each other and evolve together. Our first goal is to meet financial need for all students, ensuring that cost is not a factor in determining a student’s ability to pursue a Swarthmore education. Need-blind admission for domestic students is still fundamental to Swarthmore’s goal to provide a high-quality liberal arts education to all deserving students. The practice of not considering financial circumstances in admissions decisions for domestic students should continue as long as our financial strength allows. We should seek to achieve socio-economic diversity among international students that mirrors the socio-economic diversity of domestic students.

The composition of the student body is vital to the academic and student life experience for everyone. Although our approach requires substantial investment, especially in these challenging financial times, it is an integral part of Swarthmore’s identity and mission. Financial aid policies should help attract and enroll a diverse national and international student cohort.