March 14, 2019
Unless you have been on Mars or in a coma this past week, you no doubt have been bombarded by every news source imaginable with the disturbing details regarding what I call “The Great College Admissions Scandal of 2019." The reason that I have appended my title with “of 2019" is simple. There will be more college scandals to come in the coming years (maybe even again this year), admissions-related and otherwise. The higher education veil is being lifted.
I hope that you're not surprised by all of this. It's old hat and has been going on for many years. We just haven't been paying attention -- or, if we have, we've been distracted by other campus-centered issues, such as heated debates over free speech, affirmative action and student loans, to name just a few.
The well-worn phrase “tip of the iceberg" hits the center of the bullseye here. I like what one poster on the College Confidential discussion forum said about this scandal and college admissions, in general: “There are many icebergs." That's what I refer to above when I say that there are more scandals to come.
To be specific, I predict that certain institutions of higher learning, as a whole -- not just their admissions offices -- will be revealed to be corrupt, despite their sanctimonious proclamations, distancing “the university" from a particular corrupt component. I include in my prediction the College Board, former standardized testing monopoly and once-infamous gatekeeper of college admissions. Beyond that, keep an eye out for student loan providers. I see storm clouds gathering there also.
The current admissions scandal, however, has kept me both mesmerized and repulsed over the last day and a half. I have spent many hours investigating a large number of factual and opinionated sources, trying to get the most comprehensive overview possible regarding what has happened and who is involved. I've also tried to intuit from all these sources which way and to whom fingers are pointing, in preparation for the forthcoming trickle-down revelations.
So, rather than prattle on about my additional opinions, I want to share with you some of my treasure chest of news sources and others' opinions concerning this great scandal. Accordingly, then, here is a longish list of links I explored in trying to get a grasp on what has been happening. I encourage you to sample at least some of them.
You may not be as affected as I am by what has been revealed and are happy with a quick summary overview from your favorite news or commentary provider. If you are like me, though, you'll want to drill down to the atomic level, seeking every last shred of information available. Yes, that's obsessive, but when talking about the tips of many icebergs, we need to be ready for the other shoes that will be falling.
I'll start off with a thread on the College Confidential discussion forum, which started Tuesday morning, March 12, at 10:27 a.m. As of this writing, the thread now has 1,235 posts across 83 pages, making it one of the largest and fastest-growing threads in CC history. That's really saying something.
Now, from “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same" file, here's an interesting piece sent to me by Kaplan Test Prep's Russell Schaffer. It's from a survey Kaplan did four years ago. This info was released April 1, 2015:
As millions of college applicants begin to receive word about where they may enter as freshmen this fall, a new Kaplan Test Prep survey of admissions officers at 400 top colleges and universities explores the question: is the admissions process rigged for the well-connected applicant? According to Kaplan's survey, 25% of admissions officers say they have “felt pressured to accept an applicant who didn't meet your school's admissions requirements because of who that applicant was connected to." The Kaplan survey also found that 16% of college admissions officers say applicants to their school who are the children or sibling of alumni have an advantage over those who aren't.
“The acceptance of applicants whose qualifications may take a back seat to their connections is an open secret in the college admissions process, and our results show that it's not uncommon," said Seppy Basili, vice president of college admissions and K-12 programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “But colleges often say that more than looking for a well-rounded student, they are looking for a well-rounded class, which means they look at everything a pool of applicants bring to the table — including connections, whether political, business or other. In the case of legacies, some colleges may see second- or third-generation applicants as more likely to be engaged with a school's culture. However, it's important to keep in mind that although these 'thumb on the scale' admissions practices do happen, the overwhelming majority of accepted college applicants are successful due to their own merits."
Basili says that admissions decision-making may increasingly be put under the spotlight with the recent attention drawn to a little known, but recently rediscovered federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Under FERPA, schools must release the admissions records to accepted students who request them within 45 days. An admissions official at top-ranked University of Pennsylvania reports receiving an “avalanche" of such requests in recent weeks, already four times the yearly average.
Are you angry? Disappointed? Furious? Ready to seek revenge for your recently rejected son or daughter? If so, you're not alone.
However, a word of caution: In the words of former president Ronald Reagan: You ain't seen nothin' yet!
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