Cynical Admissions

Noting in today’s NYT that students from the highest socioeconomic quartile are 25 times more likely to attend one of the country’s most selective colleges than students from the lowest socioeconomic quartile, Jerome Karabel argues that the most elite colleges should admit a a percentage of their applicants who meet rigorous academic standards by lottery. Such a system, he contends, would redefine “merit” beyond the propensity of colleges to place so much weight on coached test scores and chronicles of extra curricular activities that only wealthy kids can bring to the admissions table.

Meanwhile, The Education Conservancy (via Inside Higher Ed) has released a preliminary study in which students involved in the competitive college admission process reported feeling that prepping for college admissions a confusing and and sometimes stifling ordeal that “favors the wealthy and the savvy and may punish the intellectually curious”. The Conservancy launched the study, they explain, because

The college admission environment has changed significantly during the past twenty years: more stakeholders, more actors, more money, more media involvement, more recruiting, more messages, more testing, and more confusion. Amid this new landscape, there is growing concern that individual institutional actions, as well as the related activities of parents, schools, and other actors in what we refer to as the admission process may no longer be serving the values and purposes traditionally associated with higher education.

And if not serving the values and purposes of higher education, what purposes are being served?

What, beyond the maintenance of privilege, could anyone believe is possibly served by this process?

4 thoughts on “Cynical Admissions

  1. janevangalen September 24, 2007 / 1:16 pm

    Thanks for the link, Jon.

    I heard a financial aid consultant interviewed on our local NPR station and she mentioned that point about not having money in the kid’s name. She cited those differences in tax rates to advise parents not to let their kids work for their own college expenses — because the kid’s money will be taxed at a higher rate than parents’ savings (she actually sounded a bit horrified when the interviewer mentioned summer jobs as one way to help cover college costs).

    I just shook my head and thought of all of the kids who simply wouldn’t get to college if they didn’t work, and all of the parents who — without the benefit of financial planners or even private college admissions counselors –are trying to instill values in their kids by requiring them to work to cover some of their own expenses.

    Thanks again for pointing us here.

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