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As the economy worsens, many schools committed to disregarding candidates' financial conditions when considering their applications are using creative methods to admit more students who can afford tuition while still adhering to their need-blind policies.

Some colleges are accepting more international, transfer or waitlisted students, whose applications are not evaluated on a need-blind basis at some otherwise-need-blind institutions.

Since the start of the recession, University President Amy Gutmann has emphasized Penn's pledge to remain need-blind in admissions.

However, Penn is only need-blind for students applying from North America - not international applicants - because "we just don't have the money," Gutmann said.

But she added that the school does not plan to increase the number of students it admits from abroad.

Nor will the policy for selecting international students change to favor those more able to afford a Penn education, according to Dean of Admissions Eric Furda.

Other institutions, especially smaller liberal arts schools, have not been so fortunate. This year, Brandeis University took 10 percent more students from abroad, Middlebury College is requiring students receiving aid to contribute more themselves and Tufts University expressed uncertainty about how much longer it will be able to sustain a need-blind policy. Other schools are taking more candidates early decision to avoid aid renegotiations.

"It sounds immoral to replace really talented low-income kids with less-talented richer kids, but unless you're a Williams or an Amherst, the alternative is the quality of the education declines for everyone," said Williams College President Morton Schapiro in a recent New York Times article.

Such schools have not decreased their financial-aid budgets - on the contrary, many, like Penn, have increased aid funding even as they cut expenses through other measures like hiring reductions.

But with higher aid requests, administrators say admitting more affluent students - especially when considering borderline applicants - will allow them to better provide for the less affluent.

And at these schools, this trend puts some lower-income families in a bind: on the one hand, they are tempted not to apply for aid in the hopes it will give their children a better chance at admissions, but on the other hand, they often need financial support now more than ever.

Regardless, it appears as if economic needs still trump other attributes for applicants to Penn. The University still expects to see significantly more financial-aid requests for the coming year, said Student Financial Services director Bill Schilling in an interview for a previous article.

"Higher education is not a one-size-fits-all, either from the perspective of the student or from the perspective of those who manage admissions," Gutmann said about schools admitting more higher-paying students.

She added, "Different colleges need to do different things to be able to move ahead."

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