Jill Haley: A look back on college admissions 2019
The college admissions world was rocked last year in the wake of the Varsity Blues Scandal. Fraud was exposed at some of the most elite U.S. colleges in the country as parents arranged to have their children admitted to top colleges by bribing officials and athletic coaches, and helping them cheat on college admissions tests.
This scandal brought into focus how wealthy families can rig the system to get their kids into the “right college.” It also angered students who play by the rules, fearing their spots were taken by fraudulent means.
Has the lack of transparency in the whole admission’s process helped parents cheat the system? I believe the answer is yes. The secrecy surrounding who colleges admit, with the lack of clear criteria in the selection process, opens the door to parents who try everything possible to increase their child’s chances of being admitted. If colleges would disclose how they evaluate applicants, outside manipulation could be reduced.
The question remains whether colleges around the country have investigated their admissions policies in light of the scandal to prevent it from happening again. The answer appears to be mixed. Some campuses such as Dartmouth and Yale publicly admitted to weaknesses in their athletic policies and promise more checks and balances in recruiting. Other campuses have been silent on the matter and protocols seem to remain the same.
College admission’s testing was also spotlighted last year with the College Board (SAT) facing some serious security allegations as parents paid professional test takers to take the test for their child. Also, the use of special accommodations allowing extra time on tests is under scrutiny. These accommodations are meant to be used for students with disabilities, and the fact that parents lied to get these accommodations, without merit, is unconscionable.
News that the nine University of California campuses are considering dropping the SAT/ACT as a requirement for admission could be a game changer. According to the LA Times, the chancellors at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz say they support this decision, citing research that showing the tests are strongly influenced by family income, race and parents’ education. Considering the UC’s received 217,650 applications for fall 2019 this will be a huge hit for testing companies.
Private institutions are also questioning the validity of the SAT and its reliability in predicting college success. As a result, many colleges have become test optional including powerhouses University of Chicago and Wesleyan University. There could be a time in the near future when colleges begin phasing out tests altogether as an admission’s requirement.
Early Decision policies are also getting some heat. Applying Early Decision, which is binding, has higher acceptance rates at most colleges. Low-income and middle-income students claim they are at a disadvantage because of not being able to compare financial aid offers. Once again, these policies show a broader need for reform.
Well, here’s to better 2020. Let’s hope colleges will make some deep, structural changes when it comes to college admissions. It’s time.
Happy New Year.
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