Elite Admissions and the Disenfranchised

Here’s an interesting review of a book that proffers an explanation of the element of diversity in the so-called “elite” college admissions process.  The book, Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of the Elites (Harvard University Press, 2007), was authored by Dr. Mitchell L. Stevens, a New York University sociology professor.

Here’s a excerpt from the review:

It is not by chance that Dr. Mitchell L. Stevens, the author of Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of the Elites (Harvard University Press, 2007), appropriately chooses the word “class” in his book titles. As it appears, this heteronym is a contentious issue upon examination. The issue of class, as defined by recruiting a co-hort of students, and as defined by socioeconomic class, is given particular emphasis in this book. Specifically, Stevens writes about admissions into elite institutions of higher education and examines the history of how privileged institutions became desirable for the elite and how over time previously disenfranchised groups are being admitted in greater numbers than ever before.

Other issues explored include which high schools these colleges recruit from, the vital role athletics play in creating a class, the divisive issue of race in admissions despite understanding the importance of diversity, and finally how a class is yielded. It is through the lens of an elite education that these various issues are explored.

Stevens, a New York University sociology professor, literally immerses himself in his study by spending a year in the admissions office of a private liberal arts college in the Northeast. His role as a researcher was always made clear to all parties he encountered while working at the college. This position proved most beneficial as Stevens was able to play an active role in learning firsthand about the dual meanings of “recruiting a class.” Most of his critical findings came from his inclusion in staff meetings with the director of admissions, as well as in conversations with all admissions staff, student applicants, parents, and high school counselors.

Diversity in college admissions, especially at the highest levels, such as in the Ivy League, has created a long-standing debate, which has become sometimes quite emotional.  The element of Affirmative Action has been argued at length on the College Confidential discussion forum.  Check that out and search for the terms “Affirmative Action” and/or “diversity.” You’ll find some amazing give and take, such as in this thread. In any event, the pros and cons of admission policies for the so-called “disenfranchised” will be argued until there are no more specialized admission polices . . . in other words, forever.

Don’t forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.