NYU Applicant Receives Troubling Email

December 23rd 2015

Kyle Jaeger

A Brown University student who tried to get a $65 fee waived to apply to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts received a discouraging email from the department's dean of graduate admissions last week. In the email, dean of graduate admissions Dan Sandford advised prospective graduate student Joshua Jackson to take a year to reevaluate their financial situation before applying to the school.

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After being denied an application fee waiver, Jackson was told that the school's financial aid might not be sufficient to cover the tuition costs of the infamously expensive private university. Of course, NYU's price tag was not new information for Jackson, who then posted screenshots of the email exchange on Twitter.

"Please do not take this the wrong way but if $65 is a hardship for you how will you be able to pay the tuition of $60,000?" dean of graduate admissions Dan Sandford wrote. "Of course we do provide scholarships but the most we usually offer is $15,000-$20,000. This still leaves a considerable gap. Maybe you should give yourself a year off looking at ways to fund your graduate education."


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That way, Sandford continued, if Jackson was offered admission to "a fine school" such as NYU, Jackson could bring "some resources of [Jackson's] own to the table." Sandford went on to say that the school's application fee was relatively low compared to "our peer schools" and that the department did not have the budget to absorb the cost of the $65 fee.

As college tuition costs continue to climb in the U.S., low-income students are often pressured to pursue degrees at more modestly priced institutions — namely public schools — but the email from NYU went viral because it highlights the wealth gap of higher education. Private universities are increasingly unattainable for those in the middle and lower class, and that raises questions about how colleges allocate their budgets.


Just this month, NYU made headlines after it authorized a $1.1 million (and possibly double that amount) renovation of a 4,200-square-foot penthouse duplex for an incoming vice chancellor. The school has also come under fire for the high salaries afforded to its administrators, including $1.5 million for NYU president John Sexton, who will also receive a $2.5 million "length of service" bonus and retirement benefits of $800,000 per year after he steps down next year.

Jackson is now reconsidering applying to NYU entirely in light of the fee waiver fiasco.

"The gap [between] limited financial aid & tuition could be offset by external fellowships, scholarships, etc following admission," Jackson wrote on Twitter. "The audacity shown by a clearly privileged faculty member to tell me what I am capable of before ever meeting me. Really?"

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In a statement issued to Inside Higher Ed, an NYU spokesperson said that "[c]ontrary to the information Mr. Jackson received, the NYU Tisch School of the Arts does and will waive application fees for students in need, and we have now done so for Mr. Jackson. We see a diverse student body as crucial to the development of original, bold and disruptive work, so inclusiveness is our top priority."

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article had incorrect pronouns. We regret the error.