EP 308 College Admissions and the Tilted Playing Field

  Candidate one has good grades, great SAT scores, and a boatload of extracurricular activities.  Candidate two has OK grades, average SATs and his parents donated $1 million to the school’s capital campaign.  Who gets in?  Take a guess.  In America’s most elite colleges only 40 percent of the students enrolled are strictly there based on merit.  The rest are part of a system built a web of connections and preferences that limit upward mobility in our society and maintain familial advantages for generations.  And that’s before the standard practices of universities become tainted by scandal, as in the case of Operation Varsity Blues which ensnared Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and others.  In his groundbreaking book, ‘The Price of Admission’, Daniel Golden explains how socioeconomic diversity counts least to many elite schools and even how sports, thought to be a great leveler, also favors the rich.  His book has been updated to include a compelling chapter on the highly publicized scandal.  He points to some schools that do avoid the temptations of giving preference to the privileged and famous, but they are far too few.  And he has little hope of significant reform of the process given the fact that elite colleges see the benefits of their admissions practices(more money and prestige) far outweighing the disadvantages.  Hear how the game is played on this podcast.