With a new administrator at the helm of the school’s admissions and financial aid offices, George Washington University’s student newspaper believed it had an opportunity to answer a long-nagging question — how could the school afford to be “need-blind” with applications when it has a smaller endowment than peer institutions?
The answer ended up being that the school can’t really afford it, and the paper, The Hatchet, scored a major scoop this week by reporting that GW had been misrepresenting a major admissions policy for years.
We spoke with Hatchet editor-in-chief Cory Weinberg, a senior at GW, about how the paper put together a story that is now having major reverberations at the University and around the Internet. He told us the article came together fairly simply — with a reporter asking the right questions to the right person at the right time.
“A lot of times when you ask good questions, you get good answers,” Weinberg said.
Last Friday, The Hatchet had an interview with GW’s new associate provost for enrollment management, Laurie Koehler, who heads both the admissions and financial aid offices. Jeremy Diamond, an assistant news editor at the Hatchet, asked Koehler about GW’s purported need-blind policy and got back a long-suspected answer that appeared to conflict with previous administrative statements.
After the interview, The Hatchet’s admissions policy article — which was published Monday — came together quickly.
“It was kind of ‘all systems go,'” Weinberg said, with the staff working through the weekend to speak with sources and put the newly verified information in context.
Weinberg was quick to credit Diamond’s familiarity with the admissions and financial aid beat as one of the main reasons he knew to ask the right questions about GW’s admissions policy and broke the story.
“When you immerse yourself in a beat, you try to get an understanding of how the institution works,” Weinberg said.
The Hatchet was also able to capitalise on an administrative change that Weinberg called “almost as if there was a new sheriff in town.” Koehler’s predecessor at the admissions office left GW a month after the school was removed from U.S. News & World Report’s best colleges rankings for misreporting data.
Now, the new guard seems to be “embracing transparency as part of the admissions process,” Weinberg said.
For more information about GW’s troubled recent history with admissions and finances, check out this great blog post from Weinberg detailing the issues.
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