A Bowdoin education is priceless. Unfortunately, it is also pricey. This year's tuition and fees total $46,260. Last year, the median American household made $48,201, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Needless to say, in order to send their kids to Bowdoin, most families need assistance.

Bowdoin has done a good job keeping financial aid high on its list of priorities. College officials have pledged 30 percent of capital campaign funds to student aid, and President Barry Mills told the Orient this week that the College spends a significant amount of its yearly endowment draw on aid.

While we commend the College for its efforts to reduce the gap between what most students can pay and what they are required to pay, we believe that these efforts ought to be taken further: Bowdoin must turn what it guardedly calls a need-blind admissions "practice" into a need-blind policy.

We understand the argument against codifying need-blind admissions. An official policy would eliminate wiggle room in case the College finds itself with a budget deficit sometime in the future. A "practice," on the other hand, would allow Bowdoin to suspend need-blind admissions as a contingency without making significant sacrifices elsewhere in the budget. Once the College adopts an official need-blind policy, it will be very poor form to renege if the financial belt tightens.

The solution is simple: Once it is in place, don't touch the need-blind policy. Ever.

Some readers will call us na?ve, but we do appreciate the magnitude of this financial commitment. We also appreciate the magnitude of the message it would send?or rather, the enormity of the message the current semantics do send.

Bowdoin has practiced need-blind admissions for over a decade. During that time the size of its endowment has nearly doubled. Officials predict that the College will be able to continue its need-blind "practice" for the foreseeable future. So why is making need-blind admissions an official policy so important, if Bowdoin can afford to do it anyway?

It would at least show that our policies are as strong as our rhetoric. At his 2001 inauguration, Mills said that discontinuing need-blind admissions would "destine us to mediocrity." And yet now, $394 million richer, Bowdoin still finds it necessary to reserve the right to suspend need-blind admission in case it can't balance its budget one year?as opposed to, say, delaying plans for that $15 million hockey arena, that $12 million wellness center, or that $100 million satellite campus. What kind of a message does that send?

A mediocre one, at best.