Future of Learning Top Reads for week of Apr 1 2019

The College Admissions “Scandal” Edition, Part 3: Insights & Provocations

(Part 1 here; Part 2 here)


“The Right Way to Choose a College,” by Denise Pope, in the Wall Street Journal

“In surveys conducted by my group, three-quarters of high school juniors and seniors list planning for college as a top source of stress or worry in their life, well above relationships and family issues. More and more students are reporting severe sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide as they struggle to meet the unrealistically high expectations foisted upon them. The ultimate irony is that, even when these students do end up in selective colleges, many of them continue to struggle with mental and physical health issues, and often lack the independence, resilience and sense of purpose they need to graduate and enter the workforce.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Pope is co-founder of Challenge Success, a lecturer at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, and author of Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students. She focuses on the disconnect between what school is supposed to be about (fulfilling human potential—our phrase, not hers) and what it typically causes (extreme stress).

What if instead of a series of “unrealistically high expectations foisted upon” kids high school were a series of realistically high expectations that kids chose for themselves? In other words, what if school were about the four questions at the heart of Expeditionaries and other purpose-driven learning experiences? This approach would convert the negative stresses of college admissions into “zone of proximal development” growth experiences.


“The Side Doors and Back Doors That Broke College Admissions,” by Ryan Craig, in The Gap Letter

“Trustees have no choice but to let internal audit into the admissions office. This will allow colleges and universities to close any side doors, and will provide two options with regard to back doors. The first is to establish clear policies and procedures. Admissions should be able to report to the board that children of $10k donors are admitted at a 10% rate, children of $100k donors are admitted at a 20% rate, while 50% of children of $1M donors are admitted. Meanwhile, internal audit should be in a position to verify these reports and confirm adequate controls. But because such reports are likely to make trustees squeamish, the second and more likely outcome is to close the back door. And while potentially painful to the current capital campaign, it’s probably worth it. Any universities that believe that public trust in their institutions is less valuable than the present discounted value of annual quid pro quo donations are more shortsighted than the dumb parents who are bribing them.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

As Craig goes on to say, ”What’s clear is that the status quo is no longer an option. […] Congress didn’t like it when game shows were rigged. If colleges don’t clean up their own act, it will be done for them.”

What if there were legislation requiring non-profit institutions to audit admissions practices and results? And what if colleges were required by law to share those audits just as non-profits are already required to disclose their annual financials via the 990 Form?

How might the publication of admissions practices change the behavior of families during the college admissions process?


…And now for more entrepreneurial proposals…

“Some ideas to reinvent college admissions,” by Jon Boeckenstadt, on Twitter

“Let colleges auction some number off spots to the highest bidder in a public auction, provided a student has some credential at or above a certain threshold. The revenue over and above tuition goes to aid for low-income students

“Alternatively, allow parents and students to submit a bid price with their application, and the college has to meet that before offering admission. If a parent says they can afford $15K and no more, the college admits with grant aid to meet that contribution.

“An exchange, ala the late 1990's Tedd Kelly's UCollegeBid. Put your ability to contribute, your transcript, and your academic or geographic preferences in a database, and allow colleges to search for you knowing what you'll pay and what you're looking for.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Boeckenstedt is the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing at DePaul University in Chicago, which has over 14,000 undergraduate students.

As he goes on to say, if you were designing the admissions process from scratch, would you end up with the same process we have now? Not likely. These ideas might seem crazy, but at least they increase market pressures in the system.


Question of the week:

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Christian Talbot