With a blog read by tens of thousands, we have a soapbox on which we can stand to fight for change in highly selective college admissions. And we’d be remiss not to use our soapbox to help make the highly selective college admissions process more fair, more equal, and more just. Today, we’re proposing three radical changes to the college admissions process. We don’t foresee any of these changes being made tomorrow. Or even the next day. But we encourage our readers who sit on admissions committees, who are leaders in the admissions field, who wish to be change agents in education to think about these proposals. Because, really, they’re not that radical at all. And they’re changes we didn’t start proposing today. We’ve been proposing them for years.
1. End legacy admission. As the venerable Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation has argued for years, legacy admission is actually a violation of law. It’s a violation of tax law. In the simplest terms, folks make tax-deductible donations to universities. These folks aren’t supposed to receive any benefits for their tax deductible donations. It’s our U.S. Tax Code. Let’s call it U.S. Tax Law 101. So why, oh why, are these folks receiving benefits in return for their tax-deductible donations? The children of legacies, of donors, earn admission at much higher rates than do the children of non-legacies, of non-donors. End this violation of law. Hey hey, ho ho. Legacy admission has got to go.
2. Remove the question in which applicants are asked if they need Financial Aid from the Common Application (through the supplements) and from any other application used by colleges reviewed by college admissions officers. If highly selective colleges are indeed need-blind as so many of them claim to be, then why, oh why, are they able to read the answer to this question with their own two eyes on the same document that contains an applicant’s SAT or ACT scores, Personal Statement, Senior Year Courses, etc. Why isn’t it on a separate document that admissions officers are truly blind to? How difficult would it be to remove this question from the application so admissions officers aren’t privy to the answer. Who, oh who, could argue with confidence that the answer to this question doesn’t shape the thinking of admission officers? Nobody. If a college admitted a class in which every student needed Financial Aid, the school would have to dip into its endowment and risk becoming financially unstable. Colleges rely on tuition dollars. If colleges were truly need-blind, they’d be putting themselves in financial peril. Hey hey, ho ho. The Financial Aid question has got to go.
3. Demand to see the tax returns of admissions officers. A recent scandal in college admissions hung a lantern on how some morally compromised admissions officers benefited financially from their power to admit or deny students — but not from the colleges that employ them. Rather, it was from a Chinese “education” company named Dipont which paid off some admissions officers in the hope they’d admit their students. And, naturally, they got caught. But who knows if there are others out there? In all likelihood, there are more where these folks came from. So why can’t colleges require their employees to show them their tax returns, much like our country demands to see the tax returns of our presidential candidates. Oh wait. Hey hey, ho ho. Corrupt admissions officers have got to go.
Do we foresee any of these changes being made tomorrow? No. Next week? No. But, we ask…why, oh why, not?