The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

It wasn’t a black student who bumped your kid’s college admission

with 6 comments

Wanna know who did?

I sometimes hear white friends express anger that their kiddo didn’t get accepted at the U. The assumption quickly follows that he or she got bumped by someone nonwhite.


Turns out the data support another conclusion: It’s more likely your kid got bumped by a white kid with a rich daddy. Privileged white kids account for nearly twice as many substandard admissions as do kids of color.

The Boston Globe’s Peter Schmidt, in an article headlined At the Elite Colleges – Dim White Kids, reported on research by the Educational Testing Service, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Educational Trust. A few excerpts:

[S]elective colleges are … boasting … they have increased their black and Hispanic enrollments … National Merit scholars or … high school valedictorians…What they almost never say is that many of the applicants who were rejected were far more qualified than those accepted. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, it was not the black and Hispanic beneficiaries of affirmative action, but the rich white kids with cash and connections who elbowed most of the worthier applicants aside.

…[A]bout 15 percent of freshmen enrolled at America’s highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions’ minimum admissions standards. … White students who failed to make the grade … were nearly twice as prevalent on such campuses as black and Hispanic students who received an admissions break based on their ethnicity …

A sizable number are recruited athletes … A larger share, however, are students who gained admission through their ties to people the institution wanted to keep happy, with alumni, donors, faculty members, administrators, and politicians topping the list. …

[C]olleges routinely favor those who have connections over those who don’t. While some applicants gain admission by legitimately beating out their peers, many others get into exclusive colleges the same way people get into trendy night clubs, by knowing the management or flashing cash at the person manning the velvet rope.

Further, you’ll discover there that only 40% of scholarships go to students in financial need. And that over the last two decades, the middle class has been gradually squeezed out as a percentage of students at selective colleges. And that while the number of students qualifying for Pell grants is increasing, the percentage of Pell grant students at selective colleges is going down. The author concludes:

[R]ather than promoting social mobility, our nation’s selective colleges [both state and private] appear to be thwarting it, by turning away applicants who have excelled given their circumstances and offering second chances to wealthy and connected young people who have squandered many of the advantages life has offered them.

Why is it that we so often, in America, blame the victims? Is it because the wealthy are so skilled at keeping their secrets, that we always look down the social ladder, rather than up, for the cause of our problems? I suppose it’s an effective diversionary tactic: as long as the economically average blame those poorer than themselves, people of privilege can keep stealing the horses.

For once again, we middle class whites have blamed black, brown and red for the thefts committed against us by rich white people.

Tags: , , , , , Monte Asbury


6 Responses

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  1. So why should black people take more heat than rich, dumb white kids?


    July 1, 2008 at 11:16 pm

  2. Two wrongs don’t make a right and both policies are wrong.


    July 1, 2008 at 11:04 pm

  3. Good article, but perhaps the heading would be a little more sensitive if it read “…a black (kid/person)…” rather than “…a black”. Just a thought.

    Monte Says: Right you are, thanks! I was being overzealous about keeping my headlines short!


    May 9, 2008 at 4:59 pm

  4. Thanks very much, Molly and Rick. Your comments encourage me to keep saying it!


    May 5, 2008 at 3:16 pm

  5. Thanks Monte, for getting the facts straight and writing a contrary view to the popular media spin on what’s going in current college admissions in this country. Point blank, I don’t think a counter opinion to anti-affirmative action sentiments and decisions even gets mentioned in the politics of American collegiate education. An issue without two sides of the debate table, without poignant disagreement, isn’t an issue at all. It’s just coffee talk!
    I am not embarassed to believe that social mobility and progressive institutions that promote such, promote social change as well. It’s time for colleges to get on the ball and understand what an institution full of like minds will actually do to this country.

    Molly Irvin

    May 4, 2008 at 2:56 am

  6. Yes but isn’t easier and more fun to blame people that don’t look like us?
    We seem to do this over and over and over ad nauseum on many different subjects.
    It simply takes people like you and readers of this blog to take notice of such things and work to correct or at least call attention to the problem.
    On one hand I feel woefully horrified at the direction our country is headed, and on the other I feel greatly hopeful.
    Ultimately I feel grateful for this life. So much to mourn, so much to celebrate, so much to learn. What an entertaining carnival complete with sideshows and main attractions!

    Rick Reiley

    April 30, 2008 at 9:20 pm

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