NYU apologizes after Tisch admissions director asks low-income student how he’ll pay tuition

New York University has apologized after an administrator advised a low-income applicant to reconsider applying to one of its graduate programs until he can afford it.

“The exchange between a graduate admissions officer at NYU’s Tisch School and a potential applicant for admission was wrong and unfortunate on many levels,” NYU spokesman John Beckman said in a statement Tuesday.  “We handled our communications with Joshua Jackson badly.”

Jackson, a senior at Brown University, had posted screenshots of his email exchange with Dan Sandford, the director of admissions at Tisch, on Twitter last week.

The emails show that Jackson asked if there were fee waivers available for his application to an NYU master of arts program. Sandford replied that there weren’t, and Jackson asked if the school had any alternatives.

Sandford responded, “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? 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 also explained that the university relies on fees collected through applications to cover expenses.  

Jackson’s tweet garnered the attention of many social media users, including critics of NYU who claimed the correspondence demonstrates the university is not doing enough to assist low-income students, despite recently announced efforts to increase the diversity of its student body.

One woman, Tressie McMillan Cottom, an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, offered to pay Jackson’s application after hearing about the incident.  

Beckman said Tisch’s policy has been adjusted to say the school will offer fee waivers for those with financial need.