The Selectivity Game

 

And some of those might be athletes, legacies, and disadvantaged students? Yes. And if you ever let that percentage creep toward half the class, you begin to have a problem. Using medians instead of means will cover that, as long as you keep those kids to slightly less than half of the class. A lot of pressure there. One thing that helps is that many of the high schools are deciding not to rank students. The percentage in the top 20 percent or top 10 percent of the high school class used to be a big credential, but it's losing its power now.

Does that make the SAT even more important? Yes, it may. And there are other pressures. You need a national student body, and international students, and all these other kinds of special groups. You can't just satisfy everybody. As my former boss used to say, "A sucessful admissions year is when everybody is just a little bit unhappy."

Tell me about how colleges used admissions to bring in tuition dollars. One of the things they do is buy wealthy kids. Let's say a college admits a student who needs $20,000 - they're going to have to pay him that amount to come. But if they can fill that bed with someone who needs only $10,000, they've made money on the deal.

Because he's bringing his tuition dollars? Right. And if you can admit somebody who can pay most or all of the bill, it's a good investment on your part...

More of the wealthy students are choosing public universities. What's driving that? My impression is that these are not the students at the very top of the academic heap - they're good students, but not necessarily the best. Let's assume the parents look around and see that it costs $10,000 to go to a state college. So they say to their kids, "I don't really think there's any difference between the state school and a private college. Why don't you go to the state school, and I'll buy you a car?"

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