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Maybe Our Whole College Admissions Process is a Joke

When I was a freshman at Smith College, I met a guy from Amherst who actually bragged to me that the only reason he was there was because he was from Delaware. You see, all of the elite colleges have to show that they have students from all 50 states. It’s a prestige thing. Does it have any practical benefit? No. But you wouldn’t have to redo your whole glossy college brochure to say “We have students from 49 states. Except for Wyoming because the guy we tried to recruit decided to go to truck driving school instead.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with truck driving school. It’s probably a better investment than a degree from Amherst.

But this just goes to show how ludicrous the whole admissions process is. The “fair” way to do it would be to set a minimum GPA and SAT/ACT score and only admit students who met the academic requirements. But GPA’s vary from school system to school system. Some teachers are stricter than others on grading. The whole logic behind standardized testing was to level that out by having EVERYONE take the same admissions test. But of course, some students don’t test well and others have the means to take SAT prep classes. I managed to add a couple hundred points to mine by taking a class and buying every prep guide I could get my hands on.

Yesterday’s hot news story of rich parents buying their kids way into college was just a new twist on an old story. Just a few months ago, during hearings on the suit filed by Asian students over admissions discrimination, it was revealed that certain colleges had admitted students because they were athletes or (shocker) because their parents had made large donations to the school.

Proponents of racial quotas for college admissions are going to use this latest story as a big justification as to why they are still necessary. And they have a point. Colleges give preferential treatment to the children of alumni. Because, money. They give extra points if you’ve done volunteer work, traveled or competed in the Olympics. They force students to write essays for admission.

So, if everything from your geographic location to your parent’s degree is a factor, why not race? Or economic status?

The only thing new about this latest scandal (aside from the famous actresses involved) were the exploitation of accommodations for students with disabilities in the testing process and the falsifying of students as sports recruits. Standardized tests have to allow extra time and sometimes more quiet testing environments to students with learning disabilities. These parents arranged for a proctor to be present that would actively assist in the test taking (which is of course against the rules.)

But what’s up with the sports recruiting?

You notice that the sports mentioned are the lesser known sports: volleyball, crew, water polo. No football or basketball coach is going to set aside an admissions space so that some rich kid can get in. They need every single one of their spots for kids that ACTUALLY PLAY THE SPORT. But crew? Heck, every college in the country is trying to recruit crew athletes. Specifically, they are trying to recruit FEMALE crew athletes.

Why? Well, whenever there’s a problem in college you can almost bet that Title IX is at the bottom of it. During the Clinton administration, colleges were forced into a new system of bean counting that required them to have an equal amount of male and female athletes proportionate to the school population. In other words, if 55% of your students are female, then 55% of your student athletes have to be female. This was a major problem for many colleges and universities because the percentage of female students has steadily increased, but women traditionally have not been as interested in sports as men. Some sports are easy to balance out: if you have a men’s basketball team, you have a WOMEN’S basketball team. If you have baseball, you have softball. You keep the same number of men and women on your track team. The big problem is football. First, there are 85 players on an NCAA Football team. So, you have to come up with over 85 female athletes just to balance that out.

Did you know that the University of Georgia has an equestrian team? Yep. All women. They also have women’s gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. Men can’t participate in any of those sports. In fact, since Title IX was weaponized in the 90’s, men’s sports programs were eliminated at schools across the country. But eliminating men’s sports didn’t solve the whole problem. Colleges became desperate to recruit women athletes. That’s when crew became a big thing. Crew was an easy sport to add. It wasn’t expensive and you didn’t have to bring any prior experience to compete at the college level. In fact, big time sports schools would offer college scholarships to women who had never picked up an oar just to fill out their rosters.

So, it’s easy to see why a school like USC could make way for Lori Loughlin’s daughters to be walk ons for the crew team. Another father allegedly bought his daughter a spot via the school’s soccer team.

And again, we are ALL paying for this nonsense! Every college now employs a “Title IX compliance officer” to keep track of how many athletes the school has and to insure that the correct gender balance is maintained. Football might pay for itself, but someone else has to pay for these non revenue producing sports.

I know we’re not going to eliminate Title IX. Or college sports, but maybe reining back in this asinine quota system would be one step towards lowering the cost of college and the eliminate this “side door” admissions loophole.

A better idea would be returning college to the purpose of actually educating students instead of providing 4 years of entertainment. Or maintaining some illusory meritocracy where some people apparently really are more equal than others.

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