A college degree can open pathways to opportunity, leadership, and power. Yet selective colleges — those that accept less than 50% of their applicants — gain that status partly from how few students they allow to access those pathways, both through admission rates and a cost that is prohibitive to large numbers of students.
A new white paper from the Making Caring Common Project makes the case that these institutions can and should educate a greater number and diversity of students. And, now, with the pandemic forcing innovations in online courses and remote learning, there is an opportunity for selective colleges to reimagine how they can educate students and build more affordable degree pathways.
Here, two of the paper’s authors, Making Caring Common Director Richard Weissbourd and Director of Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at Verto Education, Jake Weissbourd, expand on their call for greater equity in selective colleges, the ways in which the current moment offers a chance for selective colleges to rethink their educational offerings, and the kinds of educational experiences they might provide.
How does the traditional idea of college — a selective admissions process, followed by a campus experience — contribute to inequity?
Richard Weissbourd: One problem is that selective colleges disproportionally represent wealthier students and are inaccessible to many low-income students. This inaccessibility is in part because they’re unaffordable for many, but some students also have family responsibilities or local work responsibilities so they can’t relocate and go to a campus far away.
Another part of the problem is that highly selective colleges are rejecting so many applicants. They’re accepting 5 or 10%, which means they’re rejecting 90, 95% of students who apply. I think that what’s [been] happening is that these colleges partly gain status from low admit rates. That’s troubling. You shouldn’t gain status from how few people you accept. You should gain status from how many people you educate. We’re making the case that selective colleges should educate more people and a more diverse population.