A prospective graduate student at New York University has put the school on blast after an administrator suggested low income people need not bother applying, Think Progress reports.


Joshua Jackson, an African-American LGBT artist, is in the process of applying to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. But as many a struggling artist knows, funds are tight. So he inquired about waiving the university's $65 application fee. But when he reached out to the school, the response he got stunned him.

"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?" Dan Sandford, director of graduate admissions, replied. "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.”

Sandford then went on to say that the university, which pays its president John Sexton a salary of $1.5 million along with a $2.5 million bonus, needs the "contribution" from application fees to balance its books.

"We do not have a separate budget to pull from," Sandford wrote. "If a candidate were not to pay, the Department would have to absorb the loss."

He then apologized to Jackson that the school would be unable to provide him a fee waiver.

Jackson, currently a student at Brown, posted the exchange on Twitter and tagged NYU with the demand, "PLEASE EXPLAIN."

The university did explain, after Jackson's tweets generated outrage.

"Contrary 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," Allyson Green, dean of the Tisch School of the Arts, told Inside Higher Ed. "We see a diverse student body as crucial to the development of original, bold and disruptive work, so inclusiveness is our top priority."

Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and advocate for equity in education, told Inside Higher Ed that Sandford's comments were brash but revealed an unsavory truth about the state of higher education in the U.S.

The response was "“revealingly honest in a sector of higher education that can be shrouded in mystery. The director of admissions at the Tisch School is saying that they 1) offer little funding, 2) are very expensive and 3) rely on application fees for revenue. That is not only true for Tisch but it isn't often that it is so blatantly stated, much less to a possible applicant,” she told Inside Higher Ed.

But Jackson found the whole situation painfully contradictory. The university's website talks the talk about reaching out to diverse communities to further its arts disciplines.

"I thought surely a program seeking to examine such pressing topics would understand my precarious financial position!" he wrote. He then tweeted, "The audacity shown by a clearly privileged faculty member to tell me what I am capable of before ever meeting me. Really?"