Enrollment Management grants Women's Leadership Scholarship to class of 2026

Women in the Class of 2026 were offered a unique grant: a Women’s Leadership Scholarship, which gives $20,000 in financial aid for the first year, or $10,000 per semester. The purpose of the grant is to increase the amount of women on campus. The Polytechnic reached out to Vice President of Enrollment Management Jonathan Wexler for more information.

Students “have gotten more than $20,000 in years past,” Wexler explained, “so this wasn’t an unusual amount to put in.” The scholarship was directed towards women who had demonstrated leadership roles in or out of high school. The idea is to attract “women who are very involved and very active,” Wexler noted. “We’re doing that on the men the same way,” Wexler pointed out, “we offer merit and need-based aid to all domestic students…You may have similar types of scholarships not just designated for women, but a similar involvement in activities may have lead you to a merit [scholarship] based on your academic high school record, SAT scores, those types of things.” Some women were not given the grant, like those who were granted the Rensselaer Medal.

The Class of 2026 has the most women out of any freshman class, numbering 593, but still only makes up about 30% of the 2,012 first-years. “We want to grow our women population,” Wexler said. “We’re at 30%. We need to grow that. We want to grow that.”

Wexler said the effect of the grant is still unknown. “We’ll see [what the effects are],” he said. “The biggest thing is, we don’t just want women to come in. We want them to stay. We want them to be involved. We’ll talk a year from now, what was the retention rate on that? How does that compare to previous years and other groups?”

Wexler did acknowledge that the grant may have helped the yield, or the percent of accepted students who choose to enroll. “Our yield was about 14% [last year,]” Wexler said. “This year it was 19.4% overall, and women were 2 points higher than in years’ past.” He claimed that the grant helped get women interested in Rensselaer. “I think it got more women interested…it got them to visit campus…and when they came to campus they liked what they saw.” Wexler attributed the clubs, faculty, curriculum, and current students as reasons why the accepted students liked campus. While an increase in the yield was expected, an increase to 19.4% was not. “We have a better gauge going forward,” Wexler acknowledged. “We will not have as big a class for this incoming class.”

The Women’s Leadership Scholarship will likely be employed for the future Class of 2027 as well. “We’re going to keep it again and see how the retention was. How the one year academic achievement was,” Wexler reported. “We heard a lot of positive things from parents. We saw a ten-percent increase in women coming to admission events, so we think there’s a connection there.”

The ratio of men to women at RPI is widely felt by the student body. While the ratio isn’t balanced yet, many students may find comfort that administrators are working on a fix.