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ERIC Number: ED569948
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Jan
Pages: 52
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
True Merit: Ensuring Our Brightest Students Have Access to Our Best Colleges and Universities
Giancola, Jennifer; Kahlenberg, Richard D.
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
The admissions process used today in America's most selective colleges and universities is a classic case of interest group politics gone awry. Nobody champions or fights for smart, low-income students. The result is an admissions process reduced to a series of "preferences." Taken together with other widely-used admissions practices, these preferences are part of a system that is profoundly unfair to top students from low-income families. In December 2015, the United States Supreme Court began re-evaluating the role of race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions with the re-argument of the case of "Fisher v. University of Texas." For the second time, the Court is reviewing the constitutionality of the University's admissions program. There is no better time to examine how selective colleges and universities choose their students, particularly as research suggests many admissions criteria unfairly prevent many of our most talented low-income students from gaining admittance. This report comprehensively analyzes the entire admissions process as it impacts the high-achieving, low-income applicant to a selective college or university. Findings reveal that the deck is stacked against them, notwithstanding the advent of "need-blind" admissions and the claims made by selective colleges and universities that they are trying to accommodate the low-income student. The researchers find that there is significant evidence that most low-income students lack the information to navigate admissions practices effectively and that many top low-income students, because of "sticker shock," are deterred from even applying to highly selective schools. The researchers conclude that the preferences and some other admissions practices at highly selective colleges and universities, taken together, have resulted in a surprising, and probably inadvertent, result: Being admitted to a selective institution is actually "harder" for the high-achieving, low-income student than for others. The authors suggest strategies selective institutions should use to recognize the merit of high-achieving, low-income students, drawing on practices that some institutions have employed to maintain diversity on their campuses in response to state-bans on race-conscious affirmative action. The following are appended: (1) Barron's Classifications of Higher Education Institutions; (2) Primary Data Sources; and (3) Cooke Scholars at Most and Highly Competitive Institutions 2001-2015. Contains endnotes. [Lauren Matherne analyzed data on Cooke Scholars and wrote the scholar profiles contained in this report.]
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. 44325 Woodridge Parkway, Landsdowne, VA 20176. Tel: 703-723-8000; Fax: 703-723-8030; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Identifiers - Location: United States