Gapping: Controversial Practice Still Going Strong Especially in Private Universities

Schools want to accept the brightest of the bunch, but they are also very aware of their financial needs, and have a strong incentive to admit only the wealthiest of the bunch. For so-called “need blind” colleges this results in a practice known as gapping, or admit deny: admitting a student but not offering them nearly enough financial aid, thus discouraging them from attending.

How often does this happen? The 2014 Survey of College and University Admissions Directors has revealed that over half of college admissions directors practice gapping at their institutions, although it is much more common in private schools. Most of those surveyed also believe the practice is both necessary and ethical.

More than half (55 percent) say they practice gapping at their institution, but private college directors are much more likely (72 percent) to say they use this practice than are public college admissions directors (39 percent). Almost 6 in 10 directors (58 percent) say that gapping is a necessary practice for institutions like their own, although again, there is a wide difference in opinion between admissions directors at private (76 percent) and public institutions (38 percent). However, over all, 61 percent say the practice is ethical, with private sector directors (75 percent) much more likely than their public sector peers (46 percent) to say so.

When Financial Aid Does Not Meet Financial Need

A need-blind college may claim not to consider financial needs when deciding whether or not to accept a student, but they are limited in the amount of resources they can provide. It makes sense that they cannot afford to give every student the full amount of aid they need, but when they offer students a measly financial aid package those students often end up taking on massive loans and completely depleting their resources in order to attend their dream school. This is just one of the many reasons for the ballooning of student debt over recent years.

Is the student really better off, or would it have been better for the school to outright deny them admittance?

There are colleges that pledge to meet the full need of their students, although this often requires that they be “need aware”, as few colleges can do both.

What do you think? Is the practice of gapping ethical, or is it preferable for colleges to be need-aware, but meet the full needs of students they accept?

Do you think you've been a victim of gapping? Use this tool to input your financial aid offers and see if the deal you received is a good one.