In Tough Times, Tough Luck: Colleges Favoring at Richer Applicants

During the recession, college admissions' favoritism towards the wealthy, already somewhat present in policies that favor economically loaded factors like SATs and extracurricular activities that imply privilege (golf team, anyone?), becomes even more pronounced.

From the Washington Post, reporting on the 2011 Inside Higher Ed survey of college admissions directors:

The survey found that recruiting larger numbers of “full-pay” students, those who receive no financial aid, was viewed as a “key goal” at public institutions. Providing aid for low-income students was cited as a lower priority.
Dozens of colleges profess on their Web sites to a policy of admitting students without regard to financial need. Yet, the Inside Higher Ed survey found that 10 percent of four-year colleges reported admitting full-pay students with lower grades and test scores than other admitted students.

Roughly one-quarter of admission directors reported pressure from someone — college administrators, trustees or fund-raisers — to admit a student irrespective of her or his qualifications to attend.

When I was a student at an ultra-competitive New York City prep school, even my otherwise liberal classmates were often made furious at the notion of affirmative action, convinced that somehow someone with lower qualifications than they had was going to get an advantage in the college game due to their backgrounds.

But really, low-income students across the country should have been resentful of my well-to-do classmates instead of the other way around: as a teacher of ours who had previously worked in college admissions reminded us, the biggest affirmative action policy at colleges across the United States is and always has been bias in favor of "the color green." Dumb rich kids are getting into school over qualified kids with less privilege.

Much of this, it should be noted, is due to draconian budget cuts which leave colleges, even with the most noble mission statements, with little financial flexibility. It's a very bad sign for our storied tradition of public education.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at September 21, 2011, 6:13am

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