College admissions scandal: Much ado about nothing?

Maybe so, but it shines a spotlight on other college problems.
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It was easy to get caught up in the recent college admissions fiasco.

It had all the ingredients of popular scandal: rich celebrity stars and industry titans, elite colleges, outrageous (and illegal) adult behavior, sports abuses, social injustice.  All constantly re-fueled by continuous cable news looping.

Today, let’s step back and put the bruhaha into perspective.

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Nicholas Lemann – of Columbia’s School of Journalism – cut to the chase in the New Yorker:

Busting the admissions cheaters is the right thing to do, in addition to being emotionally satisfying.

But it won’t change America’s colleges much for the better.

Let’s drill down on that…

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Lemann points out:

The scandal directly touches very few people.

The so-called “elite” colleges are few in number and capacity limited.

“The cultural obsession about getting into a selective college is wildly unrepresentative of the college experience of almost all Americans.”

“Taken together, all elite American colleges that accept fewer than 25% of their applicants — and that’s a far less stringent standard than the Ivy League’s current 7% average rate — educate only 5% of American undergraduates.”

Realistically, these school’s  aren’t in most family’s and student’s decision set.  They’re expensive, academically challenging and insanely competitive.

“Over the years, as the ratio of available slots in the very best colleges to the number of aspirants for them has become more and more insanely lopsided.”

That’s why “most American college students go to a school within 50 miles of their family’s home; 75% go to public colleges.”

Bottom line: Whether Lori Loughlin’s daughters get into an elite college has zero impact  on the overwhelmingly vast majority of student applicants.

Those who got a rejection letter from one of the elite schools — and argue that they were directly impacted — need a simple recalibration:

“There are far more students with perfect transcripts than there are places in the most selective colleges.”

One of them probably bumped you, not Lori’s daughter.

Taken together, all the people directly impacted by the cheaters probably  wouldn’t fill a 747.

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Also, Lemann points out:

Anyone who focusses on élite schools, is looking in the wrong place. The right place to look is the great majority of colleges where getting in isn’t a problem.

At those schools, there are bigger problems to worry about, including…

1. Student loan  debt: Over $1.56 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 45 million borrowers. with 69% of college students now graduating with an average debt of $29,800.  Source

2. Graduation rate: Only about 60% of students at four-year colleges graduate within 6 years. Only 30% of community-college students, who are supposed to get their degrees in two years, graduate within 6. Source

3. Graduates’ readiness: For example, employers say that 9 of 10 college grads are poorly prepared when entering the workforce.

The latter point raises  the question of whether students are being taught (and learning) the “right stuff in college these days.

We’ll start digging into that topic next…

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One Response to “College admissions scandal: Much ado about nothing?”

  1. paul Says:

    My guess is people are primarily upset that there are wealthy people who are herring their children into these schools without either going there themselves or simply finding a cheaper way in than paying for a $10-$15 million dollar building.

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