The Columns

Granirer: Diversifying Admissions

— by on June 8th, 2015

by Jonathan Granirer

The collegiate admissions process has been receiving much attention in recent years, and despite many attempted reforms, one of the most glaring issues has remained largely untouched -the fact that socioeconomic diversity remains unchanged at many top institutions. The rich greatly outnumber the poor at highly-selective universities, and this is antithesis to the American dream. Top colleges have a shockingly low number of Pell recipients, especially when compared with lower level ones; and if education is to truly become an equal opportunity for all, this needs to change. Not only colleges, but high schools too need to create a new system for bringing low income competitive students into the education system.

One of the biggest reasons that top schools have such a disproportionate number of wealthy students is due to the way they weight admissions. ..Jt seems that having legacy status gives some priority in admissions, as revealed in a 2003 report that discovered that 40% of legacy applicants were admitted to Harvard, whereas the admissions rate for non-legacy students was 11% (Bruenig). This sort of preferential treatment creates a dynastic system, where it is easier for the rich to get richer as their family name earns more power over generations. Across all Ivy Leagues as well, it is estimated that around 30% of all students are legacies. Poorer students are at an incredible disadvantage already due to their lesser level of preparation, and systems like these that automatically favor the wealthy make it even tougher. The rich children have always been tutored and prepared and have the financial backing from their families, so it is completely unfair to also give them an advantage by birth. A major reason that schools give preference to legacies is because their parents are often rich alumnus who give generous donations to the school, and these donations help to support many programs, including financial aid for poorer students. Unfortunately, this creates an enormous problem for schools, as they need the donation money from alumnus but then feel obligated to accept the legacy students despite the unfair advantage. This problem does not have a total solution, but small steps can be made.

Another huge problem is the failure of many schools to provide proper information about higher education. Starting in high school, many of the lower tier and poorer schools have an inadequate system of counseling that completely fails to inform potentially competitive students of possible outcomes. Now, only 50% of potentially competitive Hispanic students even apply to college, and this is unacceptable. Poorer schools and students need to be taught earlier that they can have the option to attend a top school. Colleges, too, need to make more of an effort to seek out and make contact with poorer students who could potentially thrive at their school. A barrier to many poorer students is that the cost of college is so high, and many think that they would never even be able to afford college, so they don’t bother applying in the first place. If top tier colleges developed an effective outreach program, they could certainly reach out to many students and bring in a whole new group of people who normally would not have even dreamed of entering a highly ranked institution. While schools could not pay for all of the needs of poorer students, they could at least be more transparent about the cost and maybe even offer loans with lower interest rates for those in a lower socioeconomic bracket. I was lucky enough to attend an excellent public high school where all of the counselors were extremely helpful and encouraging in everything college related, and it felt like the purpose of this school was to prepare for moving on to college. There was even a point in my senior English class where we dedicated a week to learning how to write college admissions essays. This is not the same at many schools, however. Many schools in poor areas lack these resources, and students are unprepared to move on to higher education, so they finish after high school and enter the work force as low level grunts. Maybe a lucky few will move on to trade or vocational school and have better lives, but the ones who tried the hardest and got the best grades may simply _got lost in the crowd and lose their chance to expand their horizons.

One of the reforms that has to be implemented here is for colleges to set a cap on legacy students. While this may not be a perfect solution, it will at least give more opportunities for less lucky students. One student should not have an advantage over another for something they had absolutely no control over. Rich alumnus should not be able to pave the road for their children at a prestigious institution as if it was some sort of birthright. All students should be considered completely new to the college, and as such the decision of who will be accepted will become much fairer. Furthermore, all high schools need to send information about all of their students above a certain GPA to colleges, and a standardized system of high school counseling needs to be implemented. This will help all competitive students look at more options, and a specific set of college help mandated by counselors could help unlikely candidates move on to higher education. If a poor student with fantastic grades can be noticed through this system, it could be absolutely life changing. A whole new generation of low-income students could be exposed to higher education, and as such a more diverse workforce could be created. America would move closer to the dream of being a nation where anyone can go to college and create an amazing life, regardless of race, sex, or socioeconomic status.

Jonathan Granirer, of the Class of 2018, is from Oak Park, Calif.


Works Cited

Bruenig, Elizabeth Stoker. “The 1 Percent’s Ivy League Loophole.” Saloncom RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2015..salon.com/2013/09/09/the_1_percents_ivy_league_loophole/>.