Penn considers implementing new application platform

Members of the Class of 2021 may not all use the Common Application to apply to Penn.

Instead, some of them might use the application developed by the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, a group that created an alternative online platform that’s in its early stages.

After the Common Application experienced problems when the Class of 2018 applied to college, a task force of administrators set out to create an alternative. The Coalition is the brain child of that task force.

But the Coalition isn’t an identical alternative to the Common Application. It has very specific goals and caveats.

John F. Latting, dean of admission at Emory University and a member of the task force that created the Coalition, said its goal is to “ college access, especially for students who lack helpful guidance,” according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

There are restrictions on which schools are eligible to participate, however. According to the coalition website, public universities must have “affordable” tuition, and private colleges and universities must have need-based financial aid “to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit.” All universities that participate also must “graduate at least 70 percent of their students within six years.”

Penn Dean of Admissions Eric Furda emphasized that Penn is currently a member of the Coalition for Access because so many of its similar and peer institutions are.

“We’re part of that group of schools; we share a lot in common,” he said.

But he added that nothing is set in stone.

“There’s still a lot of conversation and consideration,” Furda said. “There’s still a road to go here before these ideas, which could be good ideas, are actually implemented.”

Both the mission statement and the limitations of the coalition have led to a great deal of debate among high school guidance counselors, administrators in admissions and even third-party counselors like Brian Taylor, who works at Ivy Coach, where he helps high school students navigate the college admissions process. He said he sees problems with the Coalition.

“How they’ve laid out this program defies their objectives — it’s increasing workload on high school counselors,” Taylor said, adding that counselors for disadvantaged students are usually already overworked. 

He also described what he calls a fundamental problem with the online platform. “Students need computers to log into these ’lockers,’” he said.

“Locker” is the term that the Coalition uses to stand for an online portfolio that students would compile throughout their high school career, and would later pick and choose what to make visible to different colleges when they applied to schools. 

“For disadvantaged students, where are they accessing these computers?” he asked.


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