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To increase competition, NACAC revisits ethics code

October 4, 2019

Last weekend, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), of which Bowdoin is a member, voted to eliminate parts of its ethics code. These sections, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, stifle competition between schools and limit students’ choices in the college application process.

The changes were made at NACAC’s national convention in Louisville, Kentucky. The association removed portions of its Code of Ethics and Professional Practices concerning binding early decision and applicant recruiting. A provision was axed that forbade colleges from offering special incentives, such as a better financial aid package, exclusively to students who apply through binding early-decision programs.

Two other provisions, one that barred colleges from recruiting students once they have submitted a deposit at another institution and one that prevented them from soliciting transfer applications before a student had inquired about transferring, were also eliminated.

What some observers are describing as “a seismic moment” and a venture into the “Wild West” for college admissions comes two years into a Justice Department investigation of NACAC’s ethics code. The investigation was opened due to concerns that the organization violated federal antitrust laws and prevented students from finding the best price for their college education.

NACAC officials informed members of the investigation and encouraged delegates to the convention to vote in favor of removing the aforementioned provisions in order to avoid expensive litigation if the investigation continued.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Whitney Soule wrote in an email to the Orient that Bowdoin does not currently have any plans to change its admissions and financial aid process.

“The changes in the ethics code, while important, are new,” Soule wrote. “It will take time to see how those changes may affect how some colleges and universities approach their work.”

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