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And Oberlin produces intellectuals, with unusually high percentages of alumni working in academe (more than 17 percent).
But for a number of years now, the college has faced periodic budget crises, leading to painful and prolonged debates (one of Oberlin's other traditions is a strong commitment to student and faculty involvement in governance) about how to pay the bills.
While these statistics upset many on the Oberlin campus, they don't shock admissions experts elsewhere.
Joan Casey, a private admissions counselor in Brookline, Mass., said that while students she works with think of Oberlin as a very good college, many students "don't want to go to school in what they would call the middle of nowhere." (While Oberlin boasts a remarkable cultural scene, in large part courtesy of the conservatory, it is in rural Ohio, 40 miles from Cleveland.)Michael London, the founder of College Coach, a nationwide private admissions service, said that he too thinks of Oberlin as a very strong college.
"The worry is that the college will lose the students with individuality and quirkiness."A spokesman for Oberlin said that senior college officials had decided not to talk to reporters about the plan at this time.
Having just completed extensive campus and trustee discussions, they want to communicate with alumni first.
But while it shrinks slightly, the college also intends not to lose any students with a particularly special quality: the ability to pay all of their costs themselves.
The rate is only 28 percent for those with incomes of 0,000 to 9,999. Oberlin likes to think of itself as among the nation's top colleges, but it also released its disappointing "win rates" against some other top liberal arts colleges.
And the rate drops to 18 percent for those with incomes of 0,000 to 9,999. Those rates are the percentage of students who are admitted to both colleges and enroll at one of them.
From its founding in 1833, it had a policy of admitting students regardless of race -- and it took the policy seriously, such that by 1900, one third of black graduates of predominantly white colleges in the United States were Oberlin alumni.
The college also has been justifiably proud of its academic reputation, with a top-notch liberal arts college and a world famous conservatory of music.