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SwatTalk: "Recruiting the Class of 2024 in the Time of COVID and the Future of Admissions"

with Jim Bock '90, Vice President and Dean of Admissions

Recorded on Wednesday, June 10, 2020



Sampriti: All right. Well, I think we'll go ahead and get started. Good evening, alumni and parents and the Swarthmore community. My name is Sampriti Ganguli. I am the class of 1995, very proud Swarthmore alum. I am also a member of our Alumni Council. And as some of you may know, it is the Alumni Council that sponsors and brings you these SwatTalks. If you have any suggestions for SwatTalks we should have, we remain very open to that. It has been a wonderful way to engage the alumni community, and most importantly, to learn about what's happening at campus and at Swarthmore today. And with that in mind, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce tonight's speaker Jim Bock, the class of 1990, who is the head of admissions at Swarthmore. Before I do turn it over to Jim though, I just wanted to cover a few points around logistics and go ahead and get started. So we are all on mute, but we invite you to ask us questions in the chat box. I will moderate those questions. Jim has prepared remarks probably for the next 20 to 25 minutes, but really this is your opportunity to ask questions that you have about the admissions process, about the class of 2024, and anything else that you have on your mind. So please do use the chat box to engage with one another and to engage virtually and we invite your questions. So with that, I'm going to turn it over to Jim and I'll do a quick introduction. So Jim graduated from Swarthmore in 1990 with a bachelor's in religion and has worked in higher education admissions for his entire professional career. He spent his first three years at Connecticut College as an assistant director and then two years on the admission staff at the University of Virginia as a Darden School of, Graduate School of Business, while earning his master's degree in the social foundations of education at UVA's Curry School of Education. He then returned to Swarthmore in late summer of 1995 as assistant dean of admissions. Jim was named acting dean in the summer of 2000 and dean of admissions in 2001. Jim has a daughter who's a rising junior at Davidson College and a son who is a rising junior at Strath Haven High School. So he has experienced the college selection process as both an educational administrator and as a parent and a student himself. Jim has just admitted his 20th class to Swarthmore, the class of 2024. And we look forward to hearing from him this evening as he discusses the challenges of bringing in the new class and how he imagines admissions offices, college counselors, and families will need to navigate the college selection process in the future. So with that as an introduction, Jim, thank for being with us tonight. Let me turn it over to you.

Jim: Thank you, Sampriti. And I also want to thank Katie Kuzoian, who helped me to do a version of this talk last week with the class of '90. Unfortunately, we weren't able to share our 30th reunion in person so we did a version of this last week and we thought it might be a good idea to share with a broader audience. So I'm really excited to be here and I want to thank Lisa Schaeffer and the entire Advancement Office and Alumni Council and community for giving me an opportunity to speak with you this evening. Of course, I'd much rather see all of you on campus at your reunion. So I enjoy that every year, but the next best thing is virtual. So it's, it's nice that we can bring so many people together. And I think a question that a lot of people have, so I'll just sort of lift it up at the beginning is, you know, so what does the fall look like as we look forward on June 10th? And the answer is we just simply don't know yet. The college has announced that we will announce our plans at the end of the month. And so we will open, but that's unclear if that's going to be in-person or a hybrid with some in-person and online or completely online. As I'm sure you are aware as you read the news and hear the news, colleges are coming out each day with plans. We are narrowing our scenarios and we will make that announcement in a few weeks, but I'm going to backtrack a little bit and talk about what this experience has been like in yielding, unbelievably, my 20th class. So it was quite exciting and hard to believe. It just, it went by like that and what it was like for the class of 2024, but also what that means for families looking ahead as they begin the college search, which has just really been blown up in terms of the process and what we sort of understood as, as normal process and as families start to navigate the college selection process. So we decided to go remote in at Swarthmore about mid-March and it was just days before we were going to release our decisions. And the question was, you know, we didn't, it was hard to look beyond mid-March or how long this is going to be. We knew it'd be sheltering in place, but there was just a lot that wasn't known in March. And we had admitted the class and we decided not to switch anything too much. We actually added about 25 or 30 admits sort of in the last several days, just to say, you know, yield may not be what we expect. It's going to be hard if people can't visit. What we did do is increase students' offer on the wait list. So when we make a wait list offer, someone's actually not on the wait list. They have to accept that offer. So actually about a third never accept the offer. About a third say thank you, that's lovely, but I got into my first choice college. And about a third actually accept the offer. So just wait listing someone does not put them on that list. So one of our strategies was increase the wait list. The quality was there. This year we had over 11,600 applications for a class of 400. So the pool has grown significantly even in the past five or six years. And so there was no question on quality and we didn't want to over admit, because again, we didn't know what the future would bring. Because it was so close to the deadline and we had to leave, we ended up having actually a socially distanced assembly line and actually putting the packets together. So I want to thank folks from Advancement who came in. So we had four people from Advancement and a skeleton crew of Admission staff. And you can probably visualize this. It was in Parrish Commons. So those of you who remember Swarthmore, it's second floor of Parrish, Parrish Commons is now the Admissions office and where we greet our guests. Well, there were no guests to greet and so we put up tables and literally they were across all of the Commons and we put together those packets and actually mailed out the fat one, the fat application packets. We also had an idea of sending swag to students. We asked them for their shirt size, that ended up being a mistake. We got their shirt size, the shirt company printed the shirts, and they arrived today. They were in quarantine at the factory. And so again, we reached out to Advancement and as we all know about Changing the World, Changing Lives campaign, the Advancement Office had actually some Lucretia Mott socks leftover. And so we were able to send swag to every admitted student who requested it. And I can't tell you how exciting it was for many of the students to receive Lucretia Mott socks. So that was just a really, a nice turn of events to use those socks and to share swag with any admitted student who requested it. We then had to sort of re-envision what does yield look like. And, and I, I know the numbers, but it, it didn't really hit me until when we left in mid-March, between March and April, we actually uninvited 4,000 plus visitors. We get thousands of people who come through this campus and, you know Swarthmore, you know its rigor, you know its intellect, you know its beauty. And what really helps us promote the college is when a family, excuse me, family, students, counselors, actually set foot on campus and they meet the students, they have the conversations, they take a tour through the amphitheater, see the dorms, walk through Sharples and really get a sense of the sense of community, the kind of dialogue that is on, that we have on campus. So that was difficult to shut down. We also decided not to move our May 1 deadline to June 1. Many peers stuck to a May 1 deadline, many counselors and families are saying, give us more time, we'd like to visit. Well, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that you might not be able to visit May or June or even July and that we'd sort of have to keep this process moving. I think Williams was our closest peers that moved to a June 1 reply date. I would say about half the schools, maybe nationally, stuck with May 1, half went to June 1. But I would say sort of our selected peer group, most up to the May 1st deadline. But then we had to recreate all content for virtual programming. Tours were online, a YouTube channel. We created USB ports for students who didn't have access to internet to watch virtual panels for alumni. We had international panels, alumni panel, faculty panel, a dean's panel, probably seven or eight different virtual panels over the course of April. So we converted what would have been our SwatLight and SwatStruck on campus programs, all virtually. And we, what we did for the tours is we call them hangouts as opposed to tours. We capped them at 10 students per group. So it didn't prevent them from taking the tour. They could actually take multiple tours. So I think we ended up probably staging 60+ tours over that month and they each had two tour guides. And actually in the summer, we actually experienced some thunderstorms here and we had actually trained tour guides to shelter in place. So if they're walking between Martin and the Science Center and thunder strikes, they know to go into a classroom and actually engage the tour and answer their questions. So we said, it's going to be like when it rains or when there's a thunderstorm, you're going to be doing that online, but we will cap it at 10. So we wanted them to have that sense of a small seminar, a small class, a very much discussion-based orientation to their experience even though we realize the difficulties that have experienced that online. And I will say when I walked through town, and this is before the shelter in place or before, you know, or as mats were around people, some people know what I do, some don't and they were saying, oh yeah, this is when students should be visiting. And several people mentioned, you know what, I never did get to visit the college that I attended. So it's actually been relatively recent, I'd say in the past 10, 15, 20 years that everyone goes on college visits. Some people have done that, but many people haven't. Many of our international students that we accept, their first time on campus, sometimes on a plane, is on their way to Swarthmore. And so returning to what used to be and, and experiencing a new normal is taking some getting used to. And our priority really was let's get the seniors at Swarthmore across the finish line. Let's get online learning in place as we were focusing on yielding the class of '24. And then we switched to the summer and then to the fall. And once we got our yield program in place, we started to look forward. We've made only one policy change, but I think it's a significant one, which many of you may know about. We have opted to go test-optional for the next two years. Several of our peers chose a one year pilot, several chose three years. Ours was a little bit different. I think we're the first school to choose two. Our view was that this crisis may not end in a year or six months. And that a one-year pilot was sort of a response to the crisis, but a two-year pilot would actually allow us to sort of see what worked, what didn't work. Three years felt like too much of a commitment. And I can talk more about testing in the Q and A, but that's the only policy change we made or we've made to date. We've pushed some deadlines and things of that nature. We also held our gap year or deferral request deadline to June 1st. And we have about the same number that we have every year. We have, we have usually between six, half a dozen to a dozen defer requests each year. This year we're already at about a dozen. However, I will tell you, the number typically goes up in an election year. As you can imagine, enterprising Swatties will want to volunteer, help in a campaign. We don't know what that will look like this year yet. I hope there will be an election in November and so they have some opportunities. However, some of those who elected or were hoping to take a gap year have decided they actually want to come in whatever form because that internship went way. That international travel trip no longer exists. You know, I don't really want to sit at home again and have my classes, but also don't want to sit at home with my parents and not have an education or an internship or a study abroad experience. So it's really been interesting, the defer requests have gone up a little bit, but not as much as when they have anticipated. Also the college board just announced that they will not have a three hour at-home test. So one of the concerns was security, safety, validity of the scores. Swarthmore actually does a deep data dive every five to seven years. And so I like our decisions to be data informed, but not all data-driven because these are student decisions and we find that scores are valid with other factors. Actually, when you compare it to a Swarthmore GPA, we don't compare it to first year GPA because as you remember, it's pass/fail first semester, so there are no grades to compare that to. We actually discontinued SAT-II subject tests several years ago because they did not correlate to success here. Neither did the writing component of the ACT or the SAT. But the SAT did and also the math section actually had, was significant for prospective engineers. So we still require the SAT and ACT and we encourage, but do not require, the math subject test, Math II, for those who are prospective engineers. But we are going to put that on hold for two years and see how that works. Also looking forward, we are closed officially through July 31st. We have pulled back on budgets, on travel budgets, both for Advancement and Admissions. We are the ones who expend most of the dollars in travel in addition to faculty for conferences and things and recruiting students. So we have already started actually participating in multiple virtual college fairs, such as this working with public schools, community-based organizations, private schools, more group travel with peer institutions, such as Amherst, Williams, Carleton, Pomona, or in a range of schools, not just small liberal arts colleges, where we can promote higher education collectively. And traditionally we would go to St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, or San Francisco, LA, Phoenix, but now those groups can be wide open. They're not necessarily geographically prescribed sessions that we will have international and domestic ones. So it's sort of tweaking what we do, but moving it all virtual. So we're going to miss visiting those high schools. We know too, we don't know what the new normal will look like, but we'll, we'll probably prevent many people from visiting campus who aren't part of campus, whether that means teaching faculty, staff, and/or students in whatever form we come back in the future, either in the fall or the spring again, or whatever that looks like. Some advice I'm giving folks is just to start locally but think broadly. We are closed. The buildings are locked on campus. However, as you know, the campus is an arboretum with no gates. The rose garden is full right now. I made a walk with my mask a couple of weeks ago to smell the lilacs. I needed to smell the lilacs, that got me through that day. And if you remember the lilacs in front of the meeting house. And so it's eerie, it's sad, it's depressing. We miss the students. It's not the same without them. Though locals are visiting and socially distancing and having a picnic on, you know, what we call Parrish Beach. I don't know how long it's been called Parrish Beach, the expanse, the lawn down McGill Walk. And so the community is taking in the arboretum as they ease back in to yellow in Pennsylvania. Again, we don't know, we're following state guidelines for everything. But our hope is at some point, people will be able to get a sense of the college, either driving through or coming by in the future. Again, don't know when that will look like even if they're not having the student led tour, or we're not visiting their high school in New York or California. So we encourage virtual visits. I'm also encouraging students and families to be in touch with upperclassmen who graduated a year or two ago. You were always watching those juniors and seniors in high school. They may or may not remember you, but you remembered them. So talk to students who went to a college that you're interested in, whether that's Duke or Berkeley or UT Austin or Beloit or Berea college, and say, hey, you came from, you know, a public high school in Northern Virginia. What was it like going to Wisconsin? Or what was it like going to Texas? What was it like going from Austin to Swarthmore? No one told me to bring a fan. I brought a winter wardrobe. Well, as we know the residence halls aren't air conditioned in Swarthmore and so it was hot. I needed a fan that first week when I arrived back in the fall of '86. So again, having those conversations with students who've had that experience. It was just a really good way to engage with, with folks in your community. I think I'll stop there. I've got about 15 minutes and I do have other tips and advice, but I really want to open it up to your questions either about the class of '24, about the process, or actually turn it back to Sampriti. I think we had some questions that came in early, but I do want to spend the bulk of the time, 30 or 40 minutes of our time together, really in dialogue. But it's Q and A not, not dialogue. We can't see you, but we do welcome your questions. To Sampriti then? You're still muted.

Sampriti: Thank you, Jim. Yeah, just getting off the mute. We have several questions related to sorta the SAT/ACT process. So I'll ask them sort of as a, as a group, this one coming from Andy Becker, class of 1985. "You alluded to this, but what do you think of the role of standard tests, standardized testing will be in future years? And how do you envision this impacting future years admissions processes?" I think relatedly, Robert Ottenstein from class '82, had a question as well, which is, "In the absence of the SAT and ACT, what will you put more weight on in the process?"

Jim: No, it's an excellent question. It's something we've always done since I've been here. And even at colleges, when I worked at Connecticut College and you, those of you familiar with admissions lingo, we often talk about a holistic process that we're looking at the whole student. We start with background, family history. Is this family, a student who is first-generation of the family to attend college? Do they work? Did they go to a public high school, a rural high school, private, independent? What kind of resources are available to them? Scores are often the last thing we look at, we also look at school transcripts, excuse me, school transcripts. Obviously grades are critically important, but school profiles. So if a high school submits grades, the council will submit a recommendation and a profile. So we want to know what percent go to four-year college. What are the average SAT scores? Is there an AP curriculum or an IB curriculum? So the review will still be holistic. And I will say that the first person I interviewed or called was the Dean at Bowdoin. Bowdoin is a highly respected, highly selective liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine, I believe. And they have been test-optional close to 50 years. So they have always been test-optional. We also learned that schools that are test-optional, still allow scores to be submitted. So scores have not been banned. And so I want to make that clear. Making it optional means you can either submit the score or not submit the score. And I am not a proponent, necessarily, of standardized testing. There are a lot of issues with it, but if students take them and they are strong based upon the profile of the institution, you have them to submit. And if you don't, you won't need to. Also, we're hearing more and more about even some of the Ivy Leagues starting to go test-optional. I believe it's Cornell, Dartmouth, maybe a couple others, so I don't want to misspeak, but it was the liberal arts colleges that really sort of jumped out early to say, listen, we've always employed a holistic review. We can do that with or without testing. Some of our closest peers have done that. Like I said earlier, we have done the testing and find validity, but it will be an interesting test. We often find looking back, students with a range of scores do just fine here. It's, it's more the, the mindsets that analytical depth and insight. And I do have some concern that it may actually impact, potentially negatively, sort of low income access students in the sense that they may not want to submit the score or perceive their score not to be competitive when in fact that might be quite competitive. So they might have a score that looks low compared to Swarthmore's average. But when you take that score and compare it to the entire school district, their score may be seven or eight points higher on the ACT. And you find out they're the student who started the SAT or ACT study club, and they're outperforming context, that's who our faculty want to teach, right? So there is validity in that. It's not about what the score is. It's what resources did you have to score well or not score well. And so we have always put the score in context, which is what College Board and ACT says. You, we should have been doing all along in many schools. I will say the reason, again, I encourage students to take the test if they can, if you can't find a seat, we realize that. And so for us, it's an access question as well. If they don't have enough seats to give enough tests, and when this hit, I think there were roughly a million people who had, who had been able to take the test and then roughly a million who had not been able to do so. So we don't want to penalize anyone who hasn't had that opportunity. But again, if you have that opportunity, unfortunately, or fortunately, I'll try not to judge it. There are schools that use those scores for merit aid. We don't do that, okay, at Swarthmore. Our need is our financial aid is based on need, not on grades or not on scores. And so some schools leverage those scores to leverage the limited aid dollars they have. So those who are really relieved that there's no test, you know, a lot of schools are going test-optional doesn't mean you should or shouldn't take the test. You could take the test, sit with the score, work with your counselor and decide, is this something that will benefit me in the process? Might it benefit a merit award? If it doesn't, then no one has to know. I will also say there will be an asterisk on all transcripts for junior year. So we understand that we're not going to see probably the traditional grades for spring semester of 2020 and that's absolutely fine. We shared that with seniors, that we will accept the grades that as your school sees fit. We want to see that you completed the classes, but we care less whether it's an ABCD, a pass/fail, a universal pass, but we do need a final transcript before matriculation. And those are coming in very slowly and again, high schools are still in session and we expect those to be delayed. So we didn't want an, those changes in transcripts to be, you know, it won't be, it won't harm the student. We will, we will accept them as soon as, as, excuse me, assuming they pass their classes. And similar with scores, because they're optional, they can submit them. Historically, schools that were test-optional still had 60% to 70% submit scores. And this is the final point I'll make, depending upon how many go test-optional, we'll see how many students actually submit scores. So that's, it's one of those wait and see things. And that's why we're giving it a two-year pilot versus a one- or three-year. Oops, sorry, you're still muted, Sampriti.

Sampriti: Sorry about that. Another question that came in, this one from Marcia Landesman. "Jim, glad that the college board acknowledged security and equity issues around its proposed at-home exam and opted not to move forward with that. Have you made a decision about the at-home online ACT?"

Jim: In terms of accepting? We have not. We are still figuring that out and trying to learn more. But because it's optional, we will, you know, listen to the voice of counselors and wait and see and I know Marcia well, and, and let's talk not offline. It's not that I want to answer. We just don't have an answer yet.

Sampriti: Okay, excellent. Moving directions, maybe a little bit more philosophical, but this one from Robert Ottenstein, class of '82, "Perhaps it's my imagination, but there seem to be fewer and fewer humanities students at Swarthmore than 10, 20, 30+ years ago. Is that right? And if so, is that a concern? And is there anything that the school is doing about that?"

Jim: No, it's an excellent question. And in fact, he is correct. It has shifted. He is correct, or not correct, he asked, is it a concern and I would say yes. And is there something we can do to correct it? That's a little more challenging. And let me see if I can explain. As I looked back, actually I will share this with you. If you go to our website and type, or actually go to the web and type in Swarthmore fact book, F-A-C-T B-O-O-K, you'll see the institutional research fact book and they update stats every year. And there is a chart on divisions of graduates from 1981 to 2019. And in roughly 1984, we had about a third of students graduating with a degree in humanities. Excuse me, no, about just under 30%, about 28%, excuse me, in humanities. And this past year it was about 18%. So that's about a 10% drop. What we've seen a significant increase in is natural sciences and engineering and social science has stayed pretty steady with, with some dips. But social science actually had reigned supreme from 1981 all the way up until about 2017, if I look at this chart correctly. And then it was overtaken by natural sciences and engineering. Most of that growth has come in the form of computer science. So when I was here, I don't believe there was a computer science department or a fledgling, but that is one of our fastest growing majors. I don't know if you saw the New York Times this past year, they interviewed the chairs of two departments. One was UT Austin and one was Swarthmore College about the real push or on computer science departments and hiring faculty. The challenges we see a lot of families saying, you know what, we, we buy into this liberal arts thing, kid, but we'll let you go to Swarthmore if you major in something real. And what they mean is computer science, economics, or engineering, right? Or a traditional hard science or computer science or a traditional social science. And we still look for those who are interested in the humanities, but you have to remember, this is when they're 17, writing something on a common application often in October of senior year or many times on December 30th at about midnight before they press the send button to 15 or 20 colleges, because now they can submit and they do submit their applications electronically. We try not to put too much weight into that, but we do look at that. Let's say for an example, a student who puts engineering and religion, they probably just didn't put that. Maybe there's something there or they put interpretation theory. Clearly they've read the, you know, our view book and our catalog. Peace and conflict studies, Arabic studies, global studies is new at the college. So we've seen that shift, but we've also seen a shift in a growth in interdisciplinary majors. And so, as we've seen some decrease in, in some of the traditional divisions, we've seen an increase in, in double majors, special majors, though there is a drop in the traditional humanities and it is something we're concerned about. But we also see migration from all departments once the students enroll. What we're concerned about is going out too strong saying we want this and then everyone puts on their application, well, I want English and religion, or I want engineering and using that as a tactic or a tool to be accepted. And so you can sort of look beyond that. You know, we used to push engineering pretty strongly. It's actually one of our most popular majors. Now we're one of the few small liberal arts colleges that has a fully accredited bachelor of science degree in engineering. And so you can sort of see through the faux engineers who checked that box, but there was nothing in the file that indicated any interest. They hadn't done advanced math. And so it doesn't mean that there weren't some true engineers or potential engineers there, but again, we also are wary of gaming the system a little bit. Though, having said that, it is a concern on campus and it's something that I think a lot of the smaller liberal arts colleges and even universities are struggling with.

Sampriti: Excellent, thank you. I was surprised as an alum to hear that computer science was the top major at Swarthmore, very different from my experience 25 years ago. But in many ways, inspiring as well to think about the integrated curriculum the school offers. Here's a question from Dr. Gordy Govens, class of 1985. "What is the projected incoming class number?"

Jim: Thank you, sorry. I failed to mention that in my introductory remarks. No, great question. So our class target was 415 first years. As of May 1st, we had met the target of 415 and right now we're at 420. So we like to be a little bit over because of what we call summer melt. Those being admitted off other schools wait lists, those students taking a gap year. So we were able to make some offers off the wait list. Similar to previous years. The question though is, you know, what will happen when the college announces? So that, that is a question. We, again, have accepted traditional defers but the thinking is we're going to be as open and as flexible and as nimble as we can with families because we know what they're coming for, but we haven't announced what that will look like in the fall. So we're likely to give folks a choice or a chance to say, hey, this is something I'm uncomfortable with, maybe take an additional time either a semester or a year, but we'll see how that plays out as we get closer to the end of June, early July. Also, I should mention not just the first year class, but we have a robust transfer process now. So before I became dean, we were admitting one or two transfers a year. And when I became dean, I was like, we either should have a transfer process or we shouldn't. So we quintupled it from two to 10, but now we bring in about 20, 25 transfers a year. We realized that not everyone can find Swarthmore the first time around, or there may not be a good fit with their institution. It also was not serving community college students well. And so this year eight of our 25 matriculated transfers are currently community college graduates. And so that's been really a nice way to round out the class and bring in sophomores and juniors who can still pursue the Honors Program even as a junior transfer. And so it's really been great to expand that opportunity to deserving students. So our total target is roughly 440, 415 first years, 25 transfers. And right now we're at about 445.

Sampriti: Excellent, thank you. Here's a question from Steve Yussen, class of '69. "The economy is under great stress and many people are unemployed or furloughed with uncertain futures in their places of unemployment. We are in a recession. Swarthmore likely counts on a significant percentage of student families, say 50%, to be able to pay all or most of the tuition and living expenses for their admitted child. How has financial assistance/help been adjusted by the college given the recession and altered family circumstances?"

Jim: No, it's an excellent question. And so we are fortunate that we're able to meet each family where they are. So we're able to admit students without regard to ability to pay, which has turned need-blind admissions. And it sounds pejorative. But what that means is when we're making an admission decision, we admit them based on the grades, the scores, the essays, the recommendations, the potential, the fit with our institution. Once admitted, we send the name to the financial aid office. They will work up an aid award or an aid decision based on the family's individual circumstances. We are, however, need aware with international students or non-US citizens. We actually include DACA and undocumented students in the domestic pool, due to the generosity of alumni and, and our, our endowment. And so we're able to meet the determined need of each family. So as situations change, families are encouraged and welcome to apply for reconsideration in a downtime or when they lose a job. And so we have seen a slight uptick in reconsiderations, both for the first year class and returning students. We imagine that to be the case, but I know the board and our VP of finance, Craig Brown, were committed to increasing that budget as needed. And again, we don't know what that is yet because we've just enrolled the first year class, but the deadline for returning students, I believe was just June 1. So they will be those, those awards and decisions are being decided on now, but we anticipate that to be an increase to that budget directly.

Sampriti: Excellent.

Jim: I should just mention what we did in the spring. So when students left mid-year, all aided students who are working a job, we took their average hours and then actually just averaged what they would have earned in the second half and gave them that in pay, even though there were not jobs on campus. We helped students get home. And it was really important to use the student emergency fund to help folks get tickets and help their current students as well as returning. We also still have students on campus who have not left, who may be with us if they're not able to get home. And so I don't know what that final number will be. I think it'll be under a hundred, but many of them are low income and/or international students who just couldn't fly home due to family concerns, immunocompromised family members, and/or travel and geography or distance rather.

Sampriti: Thank you. Related on the topic of aid, Jung Pang had a question asking, "How many or what percentage of students or what number of students get merit scholarships at Swarthmore?"

Jim: Yeah. So actually you may remember, or you may not, we do have one merit scholarship and it predates need-based aid and it's the McCabe Scholarship. It's based on leadership, broadly. It was founded by Thomas McCabe, class of 1915. The McCabe Library and several McCabe fellowships on campus. And Mr. McCabe left his money for students from the Delmarva Peninsula as well as Southeastern Pennsylvania. So there are typically three students chosen from the Delmarva peninsula based on leadership in addition to academics, three from Southeastern Pennsylvania, which now includes Philadelphia County. It used to just be Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery, I believe, and now it's four counties. Doesn't include Bucks and Chester as well. We also have National McCabes. And so I think that goes back probably to the '60s or '70s, predates me. And we now have international and we have transfer McCabes. So that's actually one of the endowments that has grown. So we bring in about maybe 20 McCabe scholars every year. It's not something that we actually advertise because we offer so few. We don't want to do a bait and switch thing. Oh, we offer this wonderful free tuition scholarship. Now I will say it is free tuition. So it's a four year tuition scholarship. It is not tuition, room, and board, but again, tuition is the big price on tuition, room, and board. And so it discounts tuition for those students. So it's a local, a national, and international, and a transfer scholarship and serves about 20 students a year for about 440 that come in.

Sampriti: Great. Shifting a little bit from admissions, Jim, some questions about maybe what, what school looks like in the fall as pertains to admissions. This one is from George Telford and it says, "What about the status of varsity sports in the fall? Do we know if there will be fall sports? Depending on the status of fall sports, will that affect the summer melt?"

Jim: No, that's a great question. And I actually will say I've had, again, confidentially, not releasing names, but a few families who have that concern, varsity athletes who are fall athletes saying, hey, can I defer to January? Can I defer to next year? They want to come. And they're, they're still torn on, is that, you know, is it contingent upon the sport happening? And what I've been, been able to say, honestly, is we just don't know yet. We have been in conversation with Centennial, but even when you look at Centennial Conference, it's pretty interesting. A lot of this is based on geography, where the school's located, what they can accommodate. You think of Hopkins as an example, you know, that they received the Bloomberg Endowment and, you know, have this wonderful financial aid program, a wonderful school. However, they don't house all their students. They have an undergrad in the graduate program and it's not a judgment on Hopkins, but they, I believe provide housing for first years and second years. And so them reopening may look very different than a Washington College, also in Centennial, which may be a little bit more rural and the community surrounding that may pull together to be able to, you know, socially distance safely. And so it's going to be a different question for each school within that conference. And so we've not made decisions as a conference. I think some of that may be driven by the NCAA, but also by what we're able to accommodate as an institution. I might, you know, you might envision either shorter seasons and/or maybe dual seasons in the spring. Again, these are just scenarios that I've talked to with coaches and talk to others in NCAA and other colleges. You're hearing now nationally schools that don't want to start early and end by Thanksgiving. We think some of that has to do with Division One sports. So we're not Division One, it's not scholarship driven. And so the students choose Swarthmore for the academics first, but they can have a robust and quite successful athletic experience here as well. And again, sadly, that was lost for all our spring sport athletes this past year. But it's a great question. We just don't know what the fall will look like and whether fall sports will happen, but stay tuned. And I don't know if that will be a combined decision meaning when the school announces will we know about sports and the other activities such as dance, labs, things of that nature. Because again, there are different questions for different activities and different times of the year. In addition, we might be ready, the other schools may not. They may be ready, we may not. So I can envision maybe reduced seasons, but it also depends on the sport, inside versus outside sports. So again, really more questions. The way I've been describing this is three-dimensional chess. I feel like every move I make, I'm in check. And so I'm not in checkmate. We're not in checkmate. We're going to get through this, but right now it feels more like a defensive movement as we look for the positive ways to move forward and we'll get there. We just don't know how quickly. And it may be a longer game than we're used to.

Sampriti: Thank you for that. I can only imagine. Similar theme, this one from Jacquelyn Asunto. "How have you gone about admitting performing arts majors being that it's uncertain whether we can have in-person classes this fall or not? Dance, theater, music, for example."

Jim: Right. No, that's a great question. We actually have a, it's not a program, but it's called SlideRoom, which many colleges utilize. SlideRoom is a way for students to submit a portfolio with their application. It's completely optional. And when we opted to do this, so the faculty have always rated, you know, cello recordings or theater resumes or creative writing, but we formalized it through SlideRoom and faculty said, "Hey, this is great, it's online. We can give you decisions back to see if this should be a factor in your decision," but they said, "We don't want it to cost the student anything." So we actually pay for that. So SlideRoom is free for all applicants. And so when we look at talent, it doesn't necessarily have to be towards the major. As many of you, you might've been biology majors who did four years of choir and played in the orchestra. So you can celebrate and share your talent, but that may or not, may or may not be as a major in terms of performance. I'm not sure if you are receiving or reading Mind the Light, which we send every couple of weeks, but it talked about our theater department, which put on a play with no audience. And so that was fascinating. So I encourage you to look into that about how we created art, created theater in the absence of students on campus and with no audience. So faculty, students, staff are being quite creative in how they approach these challenges. And again, everyone was sort of starting from the same vantage point of we've got to deal with this now. And we've learned some things, things we will repeat, things we won't repeat. And so faculty are training and looking at ways to have a more informed virtual experience, knowing that it might be either in-person, hybrid, or online. So we have to, in a sense, prepare for both in-person and virtual. And I think it's a great question because it impacts athletics, it impacts arts, it impacts science labs, right? So it's one thing to have a recorded lecture or have your lecture in Bio I. But you remember the hard work is getting to the lab and working in small groups around, around the table in Martin and other places. And so there are some real challenges for all schools. That's not unique to Swarthmore, but something that we are looking very closely at.

Sampriti: Thank you. Here's one from Jim Shulevitz ‘91. "Given the uncertainties around COVID-19, how will student housing look like next year at Swarthmore?"

Jim: I don't know. I guess, fortunately, I'm the admissions guy, not the housing dean. They are telling me how many to bring in. So no, but it's a really important question. So, for example, let me, I'll, so I will answer it as best as I can not having full information. Right now, 16% of our incoming class are non-US citizens, many of whom are from abroad. There are no visa appointments or the earliest visa appointments for international students are late September, early October. We've also canceled study abroad. So in some way, all right, let's say we're going to be open. I'm not saying we're open and not saying we're not going to be. We're going to be open, meaning are we going to be on campus or not on campus? Right now, the juniors are not studying abroad, but we may also have 60 international students who can't arrive on campus. So we may actually be short some beds and we may actually want a smaller first year class. We may need some attrition when we make an announcement to actually fill the beds that we have available, which sounds interesting, right? So we are still aiming for that 415 and 25 target, knowing that we may have some more attrition once the college makes an announcement. But we also may be missing in many schools, will international students, if they can't get their visas. And so that's an important question moving forward is would we lock those students out? But we would probably defer them because they would come if they could come, we would have them if they could get here and/or do it online. But right now they also can't do online education and qualify for the visa. So again, we're waiting for direction from the State Department. We hope that decision will be sooner rather than later. Again, every college is asking that, that's not a Swarthmore specific question. But it's again, that it's those moving parts, right? So the lack of study abroad may fill in for the lack of international students. And so that's part of the challenge that we face as well.

Sampriti: Excellent. Thank you, Jim. Some questions more from the sort of high school. What's going on in high schools and how that might impact Swarthmore next year or the year after. This question from Carolyn Harp, "With the significant," class of 95, "with the significant impacts to high school district budgets, reduced staff, and reopening guidelines, high school profiles will be affected this coming year. So for example, fewer AP classes, how will this impact next year's admission decisions?"

Jim: No, that's a great question. And so if you think about it and step back that thousands of high schools, some parochial, some private, many public, international, there's a range of program from international baccalaureate to advanced placement to private schools who've done away with the AP designation because the quality of the program is so strong, many of the schools in the DC area. So we don't assume technically a certain level of either preparation or quality, if you will, for lack of a better word. We say, what were the resources given to you and how did you utilize them? And that doesn't mean take 35 APs if 35 are offered. We don't expect you to take every AP language up to that level. We expect there to be some balance, maybe some sciences, some maths, some English. Obviously focus on your strengths, challenge yourself where appropriate. But if they are not offered, the high schools will share that with us, or hopefully they will, but we will ask those questions. We anticipate that there will be addendums, new, new school profiles that will have that information on them. Both the Common Application Organization and Coalition Organization, which are primary application, the ways that students apply for admission, they have added either questions and/or optional essays for families and students to answer this exact question: How did COVID-19 impact you? Because one of the questions is, is every essay going to be about COVID-19? It all impacted us. We want students to have that room, to have that flexibility to share that information with us, but it may or may not be the whole of the application. So Common App and Coalition have offered opportunities, sort of a check box, are these things that impacted you? Did you not have access to internet? You know, some students travel three hours each way to school, and now they're traveling three hours each way to a school that no longer offers AP. So we will take you where you are and say what was offered to you and how did you take the best advantage of that? And we recognize that as, as college admissions officers. There are, most of the high schools, we don't, we don't visit, we can't get to all 50 States. There's only 12 of us. We divide the country into regions and territories. And so the reason we break it up in regions is so that we can work with counselors in each region to understand the grading systems there. In China, they have the gao kao, right? So there aren't really a high school transcript. There's one test, which determines if you go to college and where. So it's a very different system worldwide than it even is domestically. And so we're trained to sort of see those nuances. Though we recognize that we had a lot of changes this year and we won't necessarily be up to speed on everything because we can't. But that's where even at Swarthmore, we just pick up the phone. We still do that and call and ask, hey, we're seeing a pretty significant shift here. Can you explain this? And we're going to be training our deans to look for that, look for those anomalies, look for those things that look different. You've read this territory for two, three, four, five years, but now you're seeing something different. And so we will never use that against the student, but just try to understand the context as it informs our decision.

Sampriti: Excellent. Thank you. A question from Judd Jimenelos. "Can you give us a sense of which schools are direct competitors for Swarthmore admitted applicants who do not enroll and go elsewhere instead? Is it Ivy leagues or other small liberal arts colleges in the Northeast? If so, which ones?"

Jim: Sure. No, it, it is a significant list. It is primarily the Ivys. And then that number drops. It includes small liberal arts colleges, but they're a little bit lower down the list. Not because they're not as prestigious or well-renowned, it's because they're smaller. So they have smaller classes. So typically the ones we lose most often to are Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, usually in some order. Stanford is usually in the top five. MIT, Princeton, Caltech. I'm trying to think of schools with engineering programs. It was interesting last year, I will call it the Bloomberg effect. I'm not sure, we had a huge overlap with Hopkins, which is in our conference, but they had a huge infusion to their, their need-based financial aid budget. This year there was very little overlap. So it shifts from year to year, but what we're keeping an eye on or what I keep an eye on is does it shift to the public schools? You know, when does tuition, room, and board become too much? Was it at 30,000? Was it at 50? We're now over $70,000, right, for one year of instruction at Swarthmore. Realize though that close to 55% of students received need-based aid to the tune of over $60,000 towards that $70- or $73,000 asking price. So many students' best option can be at Swarthmore and that was true for me. Swarthmore was the most selective school I was admitted to, but it was also the, essentially the only one I could afford to attend coming from a single parent background at a public school in Texas. Again, not first generation, but it was the most affordable when I thought it might be, in reality, the most expensive, and almost didn't apply. So part of our job is to help families understand that it can be affordable even for the lowest income families. This year, about one out of five are first generation and about similar percentage are going to be Pell grant recipients. Not reflective of the national demographic, but very competitive with our closest peers. But again, it's going to be the Ivys, Amherst, Williams, Pomona, MIT, Stanford. And it shifts a little bit year to year. Interestingly enough, I was keeping an eye on Columbia this year because of New York City and the epicenter and Columbia numbers were up. And so you just, you never know from year to year what a student, where they want to go. Do they want a big school, a small school? What will they be able to afford? What do families, what is the value a family sees in a residential liberal arts education? But I think we're in quite good company.

Sampriti: Excellent. Relatedly, but not, not kind of competition, there are a couple of questions around the Tri-Co experience. One from Cheryl Brady, "Has there been any coordination with Bryn Mawr and Haverford regarding the fall as part of Tri-Co?” And relatedly from Maricel Santos, "Are Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swat aligning their plans for the return to campus given that students normally would take classes or dine at the other campuses?"

Jim: Yeah. I know our President, Val Smith, has been in touch probably on a weekly basis, I don't know her schedule and daily, but close contact with the Bryn Mawr and Haverford. Please remember, Bryn Mawr and Haverford are about a mile apart. We also share resources and courses with Penn and we're on the same train station. So Penn being in West Philly in an urban setting, Bryn Mawr and Haverford are much closer together. And they did just announce this week that they do plan to be open, but with not a lot of detail. And that's assuming, you know, no, unless there's another surge. So not, not a lot of details, but they just announced a couple of days ago. We are farther south, obviously southwest, down the blue route from Bryn Mawr and Haverford. Just several years ago, we finally matched our academic calendars. So we'd like to be in lockstep with them as best as possible, but still need to make decisions that are good for Swarthmore looking forward. But we're definitely in communication, not just with Bryn Mawr and Haverford, but Penn as well.

Sampriti: Great. Here's a question from Jim Pilkington, class of '07. "What does PD, “I'm going to assume that's professional development, "look like for faculty this summer in preparing for the uncertainty of the fall? Knowing that relationships between professors and students is a cornerstone of Swat, how will this be maintained?"

Jim: Yeah. I think a lot of it is, is again, reinforcing what we've done well all along is that in-person instruction. But also preparing for what a virtual reality might look like moving forward in the sense that we do have faculty who are over 60, right? So there may be some who may be less comfortable being in the traditional classroom or seminar room. So even if we're on campus or a hybrid version, there may be faculty and staff who need to engage. I can also envision students who might take a couple classes, but then take a couple online, but would rather do so from the residence hall than from their parents' or from their own bedroom. And again, I can imagine a lot of scenarios, but again, the new normal will be different. Again, it will not be the same. And so a lot of that planning is working with faculty on coming up with new strategies and new modes of instruction to enhance what we did, you know, in an emergency setting. But let's take what worked best, see how that can work moving forward and what creative ideas we can come up with. So I know that's what faculty have been focusing on this summer, both to return to traditional, "new normal," whatever that might be, but also preparing for some sense of virtual if there, if there is a hybrid. And again, we're looking at all scenarios, which I envision will, you know, I don't envision, I'm not sure what's going to happen, but that they're prepping for both because we need to.

Sampriti: Excellent. A couple of questions on gap years, and I know we're coming short on time, so I'll just, I'll keep these brief. One is, do you anticipate more gap year requests from current juniors or sophomores maybe? And then secondly, maybe not relatedly, but a different question, if a lot of students take a gap year, how will that affect the admit rate next year for the class of 2025?

Jim: Excellent, excellent question. And it's, it's actually the, I, it's the question I get every time I'm talking to parents of juniors and seniors in high school. No, it's a really thoughtful question and an important one. And think about it, it's tough, right? So imagine we have, let's say 40 international students who can't get here next year. Not because they didn't work really hard, not because we didn't admit them, not because they didn't "matriculate," but they couldn't enroll because they couldn't get a visa. And we just give their spot up? Do they give their spot up? Do we hold that spot for another year? I'm actually not convinced that schools may see the same robust number of applications. Demographics keep shifting. They are not visiting colleges and in as great a number. Now the flip side of that might be, well, because they couldn't see as many places in their list they're just going to apply to more because they're anxious or excited. I will also say schools may need to admit more students to get even a smaller number because of the uncertainty of the future. We're going to know a lot more in August than we know now. We're going to know more in November than we know now. We're going to know more by January 1, which is the traditional deadline, than we know now. And I'm not convinced that we're going to see a rise in applications, probably a decrease. So it may be actually around the same selectivity or light slightly less selective and admitting more students to actually fill a smaller class. I know that sounds a little weird, but my mantra, or our mantra has been maintain and retain, be flexible, being nimble with family. So tied into the other half of that question. So rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Swarthmore choose to take a leave of absence. You can do that at any time, right? So there's nothing locking those students in to accept what we come up with. Some will take time off. That happens every year. It's usually a small number for various reasons. This year it may be more. why would we limit the first years, the new members of our family, our Swarthmore family? Why wouldn't they have that same option? Having said that we might put a cap on the percent that can gap. And we might even say, hey, look, if you can't come now, can you come in January, can you come in the fall? That still remains to be seen? But right now we're open to saying, once we announce, you have about seven days to let us know your plans. We hope it will be in whatever form we're sharing. But if not, we hope to save space. All I can say is that could impact the class of 2025. But that is the reality. We don't want to limit 2024 because there wasn't an option that they could choose. And again, it's just too early to say what those numbers will look like for any colleges. And there are schools now still having open enrollment, extending deadlines. Many public schools, public universities have said we will honor your application up until the day first classes, start. So they will welcome everyone in whatever form or shape that takes. And so I could see some who want to stay closer to home, even if that means doing the virtual at home due to cost. And it's been interesting though. I will say talking with families, you know, the assumption might be, well, if you're online, I'm not coming. I've had the full gamut from I'm not coming unless you're online because I don't want to leave my family. Will I lose my spot if I opt not to come and you open up? What if I don't want to, you know, I'm a fall athlete, can I come in January? So I've stopped assuming what the question will be and it really has run the gamut. I've talked to families say, well, we'll take a gap year. We can afford to do it, right? We have that flexibility because we're not a family applying for need-based aid. But then when you talk about what Plan B is, well, Plan B went away. The gap we were planning doesn't exist. We can't travel. Maybe they'd rather do a Swarthmore version of whatever it is versus stay at home. And so they've been really interesting conversations. So we want to provide that flexibility as much as possible realizing to limit the impact on future classes. But it truly is one of those wait and see questions.

Sampriti: Excellent. Well, I'll ask our last question just as we close out. Since you started us with the class of 2024, I'll end us with a question on the class of 2024. And this is from Rommel Guadalupe ‘00. "Were there significant changes to this year's incoming first year class profile? For example, academics, first generation college attendance, students of color, recruited athletes, low income students, et cetera."

Jim: Right, no, it's an excellent question. Still shaping the class. So still, and it's, whenever I report like to the board or the faculty, or even our own team, as we look at our numbers, it truly changes daily. And what I will put in the annual report in late August, early September, usually September is different than what you'll see, and Robin Shores, our institutional researcher, puts in the fact book because there's some even attrition during that first semester. Having said that, we're actually, again at about 20%, 21% Pell and first-generation, very similar to past years. Geographic distribution is pretty similar. We're actually up in international. But again, are we really if they can't get visas? A slightly lower percentage receiving need-based aid but the average award is actually higher. So that is a bit of a concern is who's getting squeezed out and this as a national issue, not just a Swarthmore issue. But families receiving significant aid are accepting those offers because of the, of the financial aid that we offer. And the loan free financial aid scores are 10 points up, but that's insignificant because 10 points doesn't make a difference in terms of, you know, where they are. Of those that report are ranked, 93% of the top 10% versus 89 last year. But it usually averages between 89 to 95. So it's, it's pretty similar. It's 50/50 male-identifying, female-identifying. Actually, first time, 50% domestic students of color. It's never been that high. That is significant. So it was a high admit number, but it also yielded high. So I don't, I think we've been as high as 45 or 47, but 50% are domestic students of color. That's not including international students. So that is significant. And so that was as an uptick. So no class is the same. They have similar quantitative characteristics, but often very different qualitative ones. And again, no, nothing's really jumping out significantly. Having said that we're at June 10th, ask me again at the end of August.

Sampriti: Well, we may, we may certainly do that. I know we're at time, Jim. From the Alumni Council, please accept, on the behalf of the council, please accept my gratitude to you for joining us this evening. We know that you have a lot going on and so to take the time to keep the broader community informed is just exciting. So thank you for that. Thank you for the job that you do. The giant Tetris game you play each year, but in particular this year. As we think about the future authors and activists and athletes that will come from this class and fill our broader Swarthmore alumni community. Thank you very much. Thank you for everyone who joined us. Please stay tuned. There will be more SwatTalks brought to you by the Alumni Council. And particular thanks to everyone at the college who helps this happen for all of us and allow us to stay so connected with this amazing institution. Thank you, everyone. Have a good evening and we hope to see you soon at another SwatTalk.

Jim: Thank you, Sampriti.

Sampriti: Goodnight.

Jim: Goodnight.