Admissions Porn

April 4, 2011

“Admissions porn” is probably a little too strong, but there’s something not good about this compilation of data on admissions at selective colleges and universities.

I don’t know whether Jacques Steinberg (a good reporter for the NYTimes on higher education) includes the data from all the colleges and universities from which he receives data, but without a doubt the places that are sending data are only those that are highly selective.  These institutions are using the compilation to brag about how selective they are — how hard they are to get into.

What’s not to like about this?

For one thing, it gives a completely inaccurate view of the possibilities of admission to a college or university.  The vast majority of colleges and universities accept a much higher percentage of the students that apply to them.  Figures like these could discourage a potential student.

And for a second, this kind of showing off is, at bottom, a claim that being really good consists in denying service to as high a percentage of potential customers as possible.  In a country where we are trying to figure how to provide a good college education for every young man and woman, this is the wrong place to focus attention.

It’s not that I want Earlham not to disclose our admissions statistics.  We will, and in a variety of settings.  We are committed to transparency.  But this compilation is to be avoided.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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