There are so many disturbing things in this piece in today’s Inside Higher Education about data systems that allow college recruiters to “micro target” students.

First is the  focus on recruiting students who don’t need financial aid:

“Everybody wants to go to the magic island of full-pay students, but it’s rapidly shrinking real estate,” said Bill Berg, an enrollment management consultant at Scannell & Kurz.

Some consulting firms are promising to help colleges try to get paying students, or students who have other means that don’t require colleges to discount their tuition prices. RightStudent gathers and sells data on students to help colleges find specific types of students, including students with families wealthy enough to pay for college and students who can receive outside scholarships for other characteristics, including specific learning disabilities.

Then there are the insinuations that colleges may use zip code as proxies for income and race in deciding who will or won’t be recruited, and the resistance to establishing policies for policing such practices.
Then there is the news that 4 year colleges may spend up to $2500 to recruit each enrollee, when I’m clear that no one is spending anything close to that to recruit students from places like my high school.

And finally there is the implication that colleges may also use these data sets to actively recruit applicants that they know will never be admitted, all so that they can boast of their selectivity.

Families of poor and working kids already face so many challenges when navigating the path to college, and now they have to be savvy about why they are or are not getting recruiting contacts from colleges.  I’m imagining the confused pride around being recruited by a college that seems beyond one’s reach, but beginning to imagine what it might be like to be someone who does belong in such a place, only to get a letter months later denying  my application, with little or no explanation, all so that that college can boost its selectivity rankings.

All this, when we continue to spout rhetoric about higher ed being about the shining  path to opportunity and mobility.

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