Eighty universities — including many of the most prestigious universities in America (and each of the eight Ivy League institutions) — announced today a new admissions plan in the hope of increasing access to those who might be less inclined to apply to selective colleges because of finances. This new group is dubbed the Coalition for Access, Affordably and Success. Quite a mouthful if you ask us. And while we think the intentions of these universities are noble, this plan is utterly half-baked. Actually, we take that back. It hasn’t even been put in the oven yet. All these schools have done is make a fancy announcement and what they have announced seems a bit preposterous if you ask us.
But, more importantly, the plan they seem to have put in place runs counter to their intentions. A piece on the proposed Coalition for Access by Scott Jaschik thoroughly sums up the proposal: ” The high school student’s portfolio: This would be offered to all high school students for free. They would be encouraged to add to it, starting in ninth grade, examples of their best work, short essays on what they most proud of, descriptions of their extracurricular activities and so forth…New forms of interaction with high school students. Students could opt to share (with any privacy levels they desire) some or all of their portfolios with people who might provide advice. Community organizers focused on education might check in on students to see how they are progressing. Colleges could, at students’ invitations, provide feedback as early as freshman year of high school.”
But that’s not all. Jaschik goes on to write, “A new application system. The coalition will introduce a new online application. Like the Common Application, there will be some factual information that students would need to enter only once (name, high school, etc.). But once an applicant hits short answers or essay or other sections, each college would prepare its own questions. The idea is to link many of the questions to material that applicants would have put in their portfolios, so applicants are not scrambling for ideas on essays but are relying on work they did in high school.”
This seems utterly complicated if you ask us. And complicated means that students will need more guidance. That doesn’t exactly translate into increasing access. Those who have trouble financing college will now need even more college counseling. And college admissions officers simply won’t have time to review and provide feedback on all of this material. They should be careful what they wish for indeed! If a good idea had an opposite, this would seem to be it. It is our deep suspicion that this entire proposal announced today will have about as much of an impact as our government’s proposal to create a federal college ranking system (remember that?). Our crystal ball predicted that wouldn’t come to fruition and our crystal ball echoes that thought for this latest, half-baked proposal. Fancy announcement or not.