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Gaming the metric at its worst
November 8, 2010 11:31 AM   Subscribe

"Such announcements tell a story in which colleges get better — and students get more amazing — every year. In reality, the narrative is far more complex, and the implications far less sunny for students as well as colleges caught up in the cruel cycle of selectivity." (NYTimes feature on American undergraduate programs' efforts to increase selectivity, and the consequences of such tactics)
posted by d. z. wang (52 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah yes, selective colleges, training the young workforce to work in jobs that do not exist; and charging them more money than even the extremely wealthy can afford. Great job guys, keep it up.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


The unemployment rate in the US for those without college degrees is 3x the unemployment rate for those with college degrees.

So if college sucks, the alternative is still worse.
posted by GuyZero at 11:44 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brown saw an unprecedented 30,135 applicants, who left the admissions staff “deeply impressed and at times awed.” Nine percent were admitted.

By my calculation, that leaves 27,422.85 lucky, lucky bastards that get to go somewhere else and actually, possibly, learn something useful.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:48 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you can't learn anything useful at Brown.

Moreover, applicants to Brown intent on studying something you consider useless probably had vocational training in mind as their backup plans.
posted by kenko at 11:49 AM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


The unemployment rate in the US for those without college degrees is 3x the unemployment rate for those with college degrees.

No, it's not. People with any degrees — including people with advanced professional degrees, whose employability is not really relevant to people with a liberal arts BA — have an unemployment rate one-third that of people who never graduated high school, not of all non-degree-holders. That's a very different proposition.
posted by enn at 11:52 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not just undergraduate programs. Law schools do this too, for example. They'll send out application packets unbidden and offer to waive the application fee. Anything to boost their (apparent) selectivity.

I wish there were an organization out there with enough capital to do a more meaningful ranking of schools. US News and the like rely on near-useless secondary markers like 'reputation' and test scores. Instead we should be measuring outcomes.

I'd like to see a chart for each school showing alumni satisfaction at graduation and at 1 year intervals through 20 years after graduation or so. The satisfaction score could be further broken down into charts for educational quality, social quality, and value for the money. Add to that employment and income data and especially the true cost of attendance (i.e., median out of pocket costs + debt + interest).

Of course, all of this will probably change in 10-20 years. The trend of the past 25 years or so is completely unsustainable. Tuition increases at about 8% per year. If that holds, in 20 years the average 4 year private school will cost $127,000 per year, or over half a million for four years. That's beyond absurd, even accounting for inflation.

Something's going to give: either demographic shift will cause schools to stop relentlessly expanding and start competing on price or a generation of parents that got screwed by educational debt will drive their children to cheaper schools or there will be fundamental reform of how higher education is financed. But something will change.
posted by jedicus at 11:55 AM on November 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


The unemployment rate in the US for those without college degrees is 3x the unemployment rate for those with college degrees.

In some slices of the data, it's even worse than that.

College is not the be-all answer, though. Education is the answer. Here's an example -- pipefitter apprenticeships starting at $17 an hour.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:55 AM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


charging them more money than even the extremely wealthy can afford

A lot of these colleges have need-blind admissions policies, and extremely generous financial aid - some go so far as to not charge tuition at all if your family income is below a certain level (and it's not a totally ridiculous level, either). My selective college gave me way more financial aid than my state university, and I didn't have to put in a fifth or sixth year because I couldn't get the classes I needed to graduate.

Still, though, I'm absurdly grateful that I'm not 16/17 and thinking about the whole college process these days. I remember a piece I read in the NYT sometime last year about this issue, and some of the kids they interviewed were applying to more than a dozen schools. When I was in high school our guidance counselors looked at us funny if we applied to more than six or so.
posted by rtha at 11:58 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The unemployment rate in the US for those without college degrees is 3x the unemployment rate for those with college degrees.

No, it's not. People with any degrees — including people with advanced professional degrees, whose employability is not really relevant to people with a liberal arts BA — have an unemployment rate one-third that of people who never graduated high school, not of all non-degree-holders. That's a very different proposition.


I think its worth pointing out that in the document you reference, it actually does show a greater than 2x unemployment rate for high school diploma holders versus those with a bachelors. Does having only half the chance of not having a job make college worth it? For most of us, yes.

I really have a problem with the argument that college is in general a scam, that it is over-costly and little of use is learned. There is some truth there, in that many colleges lean too far to the business side of things, over-recruiting and under-educating. However, it's a form of anti-intellectualism to say that after 4 years in an American high school (of all places), one is sufficiently edified.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 12:06 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


My selective college gave me way more financial aid than my state university

This was true for me for my selective private college and law school, as well. And my degrees both schools have definitely opened doors for me.

But I have to wonder if this practice of mass soliciting applications is really something new. I was buried in brochures and other solicitations from colleges when I applied, decades ago. I still only applied to six or so schools. There was one "safety" for which I was sure of admission, a majority of schools that seemed likely to accept someone with my GPA and SAT scores, and one school that looked out of reach for me, but where I thought I might have a shot because it was so geographically distant.

I wonder if the problem is that more students are applying to schools whose admissions criteria are more demanding than the level of their GPAs and SAT scores. Because wide solicitations of potential student applications has been going on for a long time.
posted by bearwife at 12:23 PM on November 8, 2010


I didn't say anything about whether college is worth it and I didn't call it a scam. I simply pointed out that 2x is not 3x (and you'll note that, again, high school diploma holders are not the only people who don't have college degrees, and that for people with "some college" the gap narrows even further). That's a pretty big difference.

However, it's a form of anti-intellectualism to say that after 4 years in an American high school (of all places), one is sufficiently edified.

I don't even know where to start with this.
posted by enn at 12:25 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


After reading the article, I got the impression that large numbers of American high school students (and perhaps at all levels) have mastered/gamed the system so well that "standards" really don't mean squat anymore. There are more "Ivy league level" students than there are "Ivy league level" schools, the whole system (SAT/ACT/grades) is meaningless, ranking is stupid, etc. etc.

Seems to me that they're just calling out the hollowness of elitism, but manage to leave out all the unfairness that it empowers.

Perhaps people should focus not on getting into an elite school so much as doing something worthwhile, helpful to society, etc. etc. ? I don't know, I do agree the system is broken though and ought to change.
posted by peppito at 12:44 PM on November 8, 2010


I think its worth pointing out that in the document you reference, it actually does show a greater than 2x unemployment rate for high school diploma holders versus those with a bachelors. Does having only half the chance of not having a job make college worth it? For most of us, yes.

But is college the cause or the effect?

Is an average middle-class high school graduate who, by all measures, would have been expected to go to college but didn't, more or less likely to be employed than lower-class high-school graduate who had no expectation of going to college?

That is to say, is it college that is the deciding factor or all the advantages that make college possible?
posted by madajb at 12:54 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Brown? don't knock it. Used to be a choice spot for CIA recruiters...and after a quick training at their Farm, you cross the street and triple your pay with private contracting firm doing what CIA does.

But to the point: what has not be said (I am not going to use actual figures).
If yo go to any of the big fat college books that list schools by name and state, each listing tells how many students apply and what percentage the school takes.

Now take a fairly good (elite) college, say Harvard. This article tells us the huge increase in applications. Take the number of applications (given in the fat book) Harvard receives. Now take the number of students they actually accept.
Now multiply the number of kids applying and the cost fort each applications (50-75 bucks) and you will see why it is a good thing to increase application pool...harvard makes over 3 million dollars a year from students applying, most of whom will not get in and will get a 25 cent card or a letter telling them Thanks and we wish you luck. 3 million a year! and most of that is sheer profit...a great business to be in.
posted by Postroad at 1:14 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


You also have to consider the difference in quality between the jobs held by the college-educated vs. non-college-educated population. I'm guessing college-educated workers make substantially more money on average and would do better on a metric rating job quality (benefits, job satisfaction, working conditions, etc.)

Also, when considering college vs. vocational education, it should be kept in mind that some vocational programs cost as much or more than many colleges.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:15 PM on November 8, 2010


The selectivity issue is a side effect of what's really going on here: money.

If your undergraduate class is small and weird but very bright - that's nice, but your graduates wind up not giving back very much either 1) money, to fund big new buildings or programs back on campus or 2) prestige, which ultimately serves as proxy for #1. The solution is you make your class sizes bigger, and you populate those classes with the kinds of students that will grow both #1 and #2 for your university.

Failing to do that might get you some cred for intellectual purity or something, but it also has you falling further and further behind the institutions playing this game (by however you're keeping score: endowment size, acceptance rate, etc. etc. etc.).

Full disclosure: graduated from the University of Chicago, back when it was small and weird and accepted a whole lot of people, mainly because not many people wanted to go there. I'm also currently active in their alumni efforts and I honestly don't recognize the kids that are going there now as the same kind of students with whom I went to school. I particularly don't recognize this girl:

Maya Lozinski, a freshman at Chicago, grew up in Menlo Park, Calif. She had never heard of the university until it sent her a postcard.

Ultimately, Chicago was her first choice. She says the university is becoming “normal,” more career oriented. She liked the maroon scarf it sent her. She also liked its declining admissions rate. In 2004, Chicago accepted 40 percent of its applicants, compared with 18 percent this year. “I wouldn’t have applied a few years ago — I would have felt overqualified,” says Ms. Lozinski, who had an A average in high school and scored a 2370 (out of 2400) on the SAT. “A college’s admissions rate says something about the quality of students who go there and the prestige of it.”


This girl is a douchebag. I went to school with people who have set this world on fucking fire - they didn't game the metrics, they weren't sure things, but there was a place for them, and they made good, anyway.

I understand why my Alma mater feels the need to keep up w/the Joneses, but it's a shame that kids who used to go there, who don't read a particular way in traditional college applications - it's a shame those kids now have to go somewhere else.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:16 PM on November 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


Ultimately, Chicago was her first choice. She says the university is becoming “normal,” more career oriented.

Man, this makes me wish I had given Chicago a lot of money, just so I could stop giving.
posted by kenko at 1:19 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Any university that sends a prospective student an acceptance letter without any financial aid has not sent them an acceptance letter. They've sent you an advertisement.

Any students that haven't figured this out yet are indicators—a pH test, if you will, to the levels of stupidity acceptable for a region's graduating seniors.

See also: Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes, pre-approved credit cards, etc.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:21 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


& I, frankly, don't understand why Chicago (also my alma mater if it wasn't obvious from my previous comment) feels the need to keep up with the Joneses. It isn't, if I may be somewhat pretentious, a very Chicago thing to do.
posted by kenko at 1:21 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Civil_Disobedient: Any university that sends a prospective student an acceptance letter without any financial aid has not sent them an acceptance letter. They've sent you an advertisement.

I think the key difference there is that universities won't let you attend if you aren't accepted. They won't even let you buy their product then.

Assuming that they aren't sending these letters to people who didn't apply, I don't see the harm. The alternative would presumably be not letting them in at all.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:37 PM on November 8, 2010


...a great business to be in

For all its recent market troubles, $3 million is about 0.01% of Harvard's endowment. It probably earns that much in interest every few hours. However, it and yale are probs the only two in that club. For a number of other highly selective colleges, however, it might be signifigantly more of an inducement.
posted by Diablevert at 1:49 PM on November 8, 2010


For years, Chicago’s admissions office emphasized the university’s distinctiveness: one offbeat mailing was a postcard ringed with a coffee stain. Its application has long included imaginative essay prompts, like “If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk? (No net).”

haaaaaaaaa seriously? who are the people that are reading these essays? and does this essay come before or after the part where you fill in which colleges and graduate programs your parents attended?
posted by lulz at 1:55 PM on November 8, 2010


It seems like Mefi college-haters assume that a) everyone who goes to college goes for a liberal arts degree, and b) people who go for liberal arts degrees are all under the impression that a liberal arts degree is the ticket to a good job.

Those people getting liberal arts degrees? They don't all want to be pipe-fitters! I talked to my brother, who is studying English or something similarly useless about this. I explained to him very clearly that after he graduates, it may be very difficult for him to find a decent job and get any traction, and that he will be competing with many people for a small number of the jobs he actually wants (writing film or TV.) We talked about alternatives like learning a trade and doing his writing on the side. He wasn't interested. I don't think there's anything wrong with this. If he wants to be poor doing what he loves, fine! And if he had a degree from Brown, that would probably be a leg-up on getting people to look at him more closely when he's looking for jobs. (He's going to a cheap state school instead, though, which is probably pretty smart.)

Further, lots of people who go to college study science and engineering, and go on to make $50-60,000 straight out of college, or go on to a fully-funded graduate program. Even in the awful economy of 2009 when I graduated, all of my engineering friends eventually found high-paying jobs, and we graduated from one of the least competitive universities. I imagine Brown graduates faired quite a bit better.
posted by !Jim at 1:57 PM on November 8, 2010


Ah yes, selective colleges, training the young workforce to work in jobs that do not exist

Well this depends on what you study, no? I went to a very selective science & eng school for an engineering degree that has more than paid off the (admittedly high) tuition. Most of the students I know have been at least moderately successful (worst cases are those trying to get professorships, which are in comparatively short supply). Although as far as I know they don't do any gaming of the stats, it's just that theres only 200 or so students in each incoming class.

I'm sure that (as madajb says) there is some correlation: selective schools by definition are going to have students who excelled in K-12, and it's very hard to separate that effect. But I do find it hard to believe that the education and environment doesn't help.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:59 PM on November 8, 2010


That is to say, is it college that is the deciding factor or all the advantages that make college possible?


Well, it's impossible to untangle the causal order, but one only has to look at this to understand what drives unemployment. Try toggling the different patterns to see how you fare when a black male under 25 with no HS degree compared with a white woman over 44 with a bachelors+.

Fix the economy?
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 2:18 PM on November 8, 2010


For all its recent market troubles, $3 million is about 0.01% of Harvard's endowment. It probably earns that much in interest every few hours. However, it and yale are probs the only two in that club. For a number of other highly selective colleges, however, it might be signifigantly more of an inducement.

Harvard and Yale are at the top, sure, but Stanford, Princeton, and the UT system also have endowments over ten billion.
posted by dd42 at 2:24 PM on November 8, 2010


& I, frankly, don't understand why Chicago (also my alma mater if it wasn't obvious from my previous comment) feels the need to keep up with the Joneses. It isn't, if I may be somewhat pretentious, a very Chicago thing to do.

I was a little taken aback by that as well. Granted, I went to the U of C as a grad student, not an undergrad, but there was always a "We are the U of C and do as we please" attitude that seems to be missing here. (Admittedly, the "do as we please" sometimes caused real problems for grad students, myself included, so some more normality on certain fronts might have been a good thing...)
posted by thomas j wise at 2:33 PM on November 8, 2010


When I was in high school I did not know how to game the metrics. I have since learned how to do so, and it is amazing how powerful these numbers are. I also discovered that generating these astonishing metrics were not that difficult.

I have now caught up with many of the people who attended the high-end (limited acceptance) universities. These people are crazy for metrics, but no more talented than I am. Their number one gain from attending an elite institution is higher quality professors, and number two, business connections. Their weakness is sometimes a lack of practicality.

Not everyone can be a superstar. This is difficult to appreciate in today's world, when wealth and power are so admired. However, achievement could be more admired if it was localized. Globalization has pushed achievement, university acceptance, life plans to a level where the student has to be the best in the world. If there was more local appreciation, more community, there may be more satisfaction.

Another thing that occurred to me when I read this article is the similarity to the situation with film festivals, where the quantity of submissions has now reached phenomenal heights. Film festivals also make a great deal of money from submission fees, and the most competitive ones get a deluge of submissions because people think "if... there's a chance".
posted by niccolo at 3:11 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Instead of a desperate struggle by the masses to get into a very, very small number of openings at a few excellent schools, I'd rather fix the system so that the vast majority of schools can offer as good an education as Harvard (or other similarly exclusive schools). Why is this so difficult?
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Their weakness is sometimes a lack of practicality.

"Got mine" mentality, obsession with rankings, obsession with metrics, "world class, baby, world class."

I don't think it's a lack of 'practicality' at all, they're extremely practical, it's something else.
posted by peppito at 3:41 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is this so difficult?

Because a big piece of it is about reputation, not excellence of education. I don't know about "vast majority," but I'd be willing to bet that more colleges and universities (including community colleges) than not offer a good to excellent education. Places like Harvard also tend to attract kids who already know how to study, who don't need to take remedial anything, and understand stuff like going to your professor's office hours if you're having trouble in a class.
posted by rtha at 3:49 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


...Princeton, whose freshman class this year is 37 percent minority students, 17 percent athletes, 13 percent legacies and 11 percent international students.

So 78% total of the incoming class consists of "pre-hooked spots" that are filled first and aren't judged in a pool against the other applications? Can that really be correct?
posted by Nixy at 4:30 PM on November 8, 2010


haaaaaaaaa seriously? who are the people that are reading these essays? and does this essay come before or after the part where you fill in which colleges and graduate programs your parents attended?

The admissions committees read the essays, of course. The oddball essay prompt on Chicago's applications are and always have been one of multiple prompts, only one of which need be answered, and many (I think most) people don't go for it (at least that's the way it's been in the past; it may now be that you just get a chance to answer one of many oddball prompts—but given the increasing squa^H^H^H^Hnormalization the school's undergoing, I find that unlikely.)

(And yes, seriously.)

Recently (I think my first year (2000) or the year before) they've started having students who applied in year N write submit prompts to be posed to those who, if admitted, will start in year N+1; in my opinion, the prompts were more interesting before they started doing that. The year my sister applied, this was the oddball prompt (more or less, scavenged from the internet):
You must begin with the sentence, “Many years later, he remembered his first experience with ice.”

You have to mention the University of Chicago, but please, no accounts of erstwhile high school students applying to the University—this is fiction, not autobiography.

These items must be included: a new pair of socks, a historical landmark, a spork (the combination of spoon and fork frequently seen among airline flatware), a domesticated animal, and the complete works of William Shakespeare. Have fun, and try to keep your brilliance and wit to three pages max.
Nixy: legacies and athletes are the only plausible candidates on that list from "aren't judged in a pool against the other applications".
posted by kenko at 4:50 PM on November 8, 2010


When I was in high school I did not know how to game the metrics. I have since learned how to do so, and it is amazing how powerful these numbers are. I also discovered that generating these astonishing metrics were not that difficult.

Niccolo, elaborate?
posted by zug at 5:08 PM on November 8, 2010


The thing is, one should probably avoid applying to some mythical "best college." One is more likely to have success applying to the school that is the best college for them.

Furthermore, for the most part, the influence of one's college degree frequently ends after her or his first job post-college - unless the go into academia.

What I found interesting about the article was how much the admissions process is ultimately about money and marketing. Did you notice how much money the SAT and PSAT people make by sharing names? Is it any wonder that they have enough money to advocate for the importance of standardized exams as a way to "level the playing field?" As if the scores a person gets on a single test are somehow a measure of intellectual ability?

Anyhow, back to my original point, if a prospective student genuinely does their research and ignores pointless factors like "selectivity," they can find some schools that offer degrees they want, have community connections that might help them find post-school work in the field, that have the class sized they'd prefer, etc.

If you buy the product based on the packaging you're inevitably going to be disappointed with what you find inside.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:22 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're a pipefitter, and you have an injury, what do you do next? What if you stop getting work when you're olderm or lose a job with a design-build firm or what have you? What's your fallback? Entire fields of work can collapse, as so many specialists have found out over the past two years.
posted by raysmj at 5:33 PM on November 8, 2010


Article on hard times for pipefitters, plumbers.
posted by raysmj at 5:49 PM on November 8, 2010


Why is this so difficult?

Woah, woah, hold on. The problem isn't that other places can't offer equally as good educations. That's not the issue at all. Hell, pick any ten famous, successful people and I bet at least half of them went to places you've never even heard of.

The truth—the distasteful, honest truth—is that it has nothing at all to do with educational policies but everything to do with their exclusivity and the nature of the students that apply. They are, for the most part, mostly over-achievers, with a smattering of natural geniuses. These people will do well anywhere. If Harvard's entering Freshman class all got up and walked a couple of miles south and sat down in an Northeastern University classroom, they'd still have the same success rates in life. That drive has zilch to do with the university. The kids have to have the drive before they walk through the doors.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:50 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Harvard's entering Freshman class all got up and walked a couple of miles south and sat down in an Northeastern University classroom, they'd still have the same success rates in life

Actually I think lack of access to Harvard's alumni network (direct and indirect -- by indirect I mean Harvard grads hiring other Harvard grads) would have an effect. Alumni connections are not to be sneezed at, and even if you move the whole freshman class (who presumably would have the network effect within themselves) they'd lose out on the larger benefits of being Harvard-associated.

(I also think quality of education does matter, although thats hard to measure. I do agree with your point overall, in that students in these universities will always perform above average since they are by definition above average. But there are nonzero benefits from attending these schools)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:57 PM on November 8, 2010


Instead we should be measuring outcomes.

Defined by what metrics? Earning power? Number of job interviews in their senior year? Number of automobiles owned? Number of children? Happiness and satisfaction? Carbon footprint? Positive effect on other people? Number of hours per week in therapy? Number of anti-depressant prescriptions? Time between promotions? Number of friends? Number of good anecdotes for cocktail parties?
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:13 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, I get it now!

Force colleges (especially law schools) to be the co-signer on all student loans.

Problem solved.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:19 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Defined by what metrics?

I gave several examples. The main one would be alumni satisfaction, both overall and as broken out into educational quality, social quality, and value for the money. Also employment data and income, taking into account that not everyone wants to be employed (e.g., stay at home parents).

I'd much rather know whether alumni thought going to a given school was a good idea or worth it after graduating and 5, 10, 15 years down the road than know how many books are in the library or what percentage of applicants the school admits.
posted by jedicus at 6:44 PM on November 8, 2010


Nice that the Times finally got around to printing something negative about elite universities.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:23 PM on November 8, 2010


So applying to colleges is becoming more like applying for jobs? Eventually students will have three or four versions of a high-school resume and they'll shop it around to dozens of places?
posted by subdee at 7:34 PM on November 8, 2010


people who go for liberal arts degrees are all under the impression that a liberal arts degree is the ticket to a good job.

And what makes you think they would be wrong assuming that?

Here are the offical government figures for graduate employment rates by subject for the UK for 2009 (detailed, summary). Computer Studies students are the most likely to be unemployed on graduation (16.7% vs English at 9%). It is true that humanities students are generally more likely to be employed in the service sector but this is true for significant numbers of graduates across all field (suggesting this might have as much to do with post graduate patterns of employment as anything else. There are also income disparities to be taken into consideration (Engineers tend to start on higher than average salaries and entry level media jobs are poorly paid for example) but a good job (or at least career choice) is not determined by earnings alone. For comparison here are (US) unemployment rates by major from a Studentsreview.com survey which show similar patterns. The idea that liberal arts degrees do nothing for employment prospects, or that science based vocational ones do is not one supported by evidence.
posted by tallus at 10:22 PM on November 8, 2010


The other option is the state university model. Arizona State University admits more students each year than these universities get in applications. And they're starting to build an excellent research program. It's an all around good place to learn.

rtha hit the nail on the head. Selectivity is a bed measure of quality. Selectivity doesn't mean a good education, it generally means laziness. It's a lot easier to teach the best of the best than it is to teach the general population. The quality of a university should be measured by the quality of student that comes out, not the quality of student that goes in. State universities and community colleges do the hard work of education and they do it well.
posted by yeolcoatl at 11:12 PM on November 8, 2010


I loved my private college education at the time, but now consider it a waste. I could have gotten a full scholarship at my State U. and then travelled around the world two or three times.
posted by bardic at 11:33 PM on November 8, 2010


I, frankly, don't understand why Chicago (also my alma mater if it wasn't obvious from my previous comment) feels the need to keep up with the Joneses.

I'm sure that rising tuition was a significant factor. University of Chicago was known for giving less financial aid than its peer universities. There just aren't enough bright weird people available in the country that were able to pay full-fare tuition, so they had to expand their net in search of others appocans who had good test scores but who might be a bit more mainstream with more mainstream interests.
posted by deanc at 11:42 PM on November 8, 2010


What happens to a nation that tries to turn every single one of its young people into a whining, obsequious little toady falling all over itself to show anyone who wants to know everything about it and crying in abject submission to be judged worthy to be let in some door?

Well, look around you, I guess.

What a ridiculous, contemptible mess.
posted by jamjam at 2:04 AM on November 9, 2010


I want to know exactly how these universities evaluate the applications they receive. A fair evaluation of 30K documents would certainly take a lot of time and cost a bunch of money. So ...

Who is making the first cut and on what basis are these cuts being made?

How much attention does each application get? On average, how much time per application is spent on rejected applications? Wait listed? Admit legacy, athlete, underrepresented? Admit all others?

If applicants are paying a fee, they are entitled to fair evaluations of their portfolios. If these applications are being solicited and fees are being paid and the applications being rejected with little or no evaluation, something seems a little illegal. Maybe the universities are reaping a windfall each year.

Since university researchers receive federal support and some students receive federal aid, shouldn't the government have access to and publish the information under a "Truth in Application" regulation??

The way the situation is described in the NYT/Chronicle article, it seems to me that these universities should be paying applicants.
posted by WyoWhy at 5:37 AM on November 9, 2010


At the very least, selectivity needs to be reduced by the percentage of accepted students who don't attend. That's the clear marker of inflated admissions.
posted by msalt at 10:34 AM on November 10, 2010


That's a separate metric called yield, I believe: the percentage of accepted students who enroll.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:22 AM on November 10, 2010


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