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Friday, January 21, 2011

College Admissions

With schools using aggressive direct marketing, fast track applications, and other lures, the number of applicants received has skyrocketed.  Schools are reporting 25% - and more - increases in the number of applications received.

Naturally, the more applications received, the more rejection letters which will be sent.  Schools can afford to be picky, and use wait lists and other strategies to ensure that they meet their enrollment goals.  Most schools are not "need blind" in the admissions office, so they can also exercise a preference for those students whose families can pay full price.

In today's Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Jerome Lucido of USC rightly raises the issue of whether all the marketing, and ancillary results, is having an adverse effect on the quality of higher education.  The shift to a focus on exclusivity and selectivity distracts from a focus on the students' intellectual curiosity, vitality, and perspectives.  Is there a focus or measure of the impact of the university experience on the students - what knowledge have they gained, habits of mind have they developed, skills have they mastered?

I applaud Dr. Lucido for asking the questions and pointing out that the business objectives of the university must be balanced with the mission of the institution.

It is my hope that this month's national forum "The Case for Change in College Admissions" will not only be the venue for many rich conversations but also a call to re-focus on the essentials of higher learning at every level of our higher education system.

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