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The decision by Smith College of Northampton, Mass., to drop its "need blind" admissions policy is prompting fears that other private colleges and universities are weighing similar changes in their financial-aid practices.

Earlier this year, Smith decided it could no longer afford its policy of admitting students who lack the ability to pay. The change did not become widely known until this month.

Beginning with the entering class of 1991, the college will distribute a budgeted amount of financial aid, beginning with students ranked at the top of the admissions list. When the money runs out, students remaining on the list who need financial aid will not be admitted. However, the college will review their cases if they can find more money on their own.

Tuition, room, and board next year at Smith will be $21,140.

Many institutions have never been able to afford a need-blind admissions policy, and Brown University dropped its policy several years ago.

At least one institution, Barnard College, has publicly reaffirmed its commitment to admitting students without considering their ability to pay.


The presidents of four leading higher-education associations have requested a meeting with Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney to discuss the military's policy barring homosexuals from service.

In their May 14 letter, the leaders express their concern that the military's policy means that Reserve Officer Training Corps units on college campuses discriminate against homosexual students, often in conflict with institutional policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"Denial of equal opportunity on the grounds of race, gender, religion, nationality, or political affiliation ... has long since been barred," the letter said. "Discrimination based on sexual orientation thus remains a curious anomaly."

The letter was signed by Robert H. Atwell of the American Council on Education, Robert L. Clodius of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, Allan W. Ostar of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and Robert M. Rosenzweig of the Association of American Universities.

The letter came in response to the approval at an aau meeting of a resolution proposed by Kenneth A. Shaw, president of the University of Wisconsin system. Uw regents have voted to lobby for a change in the military's policy.

The presidents' letter follows protests at several campuses in recent months aimed at rescinding the Defense Department policy or else removing r.o.t.c. units.--mw

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