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The Case to Change College Admissions–Reflections on Day 1

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I am attending the symposium. “The Case for Change in College Admissions,” sponsored by USC. The group of professionals assembled is terrific and the discussion is deeper than the typical gathering of college admissions officers. Today’s speakers included Bob Zemsky, Sandy Baum, Michael McPherson, and Harry Brighouse. All made interesting contributions to the deeper conversation.

The closing session today was focused on clearly articulating (or repeating) the case for change. It was expertly facilitated by Jeffrey Brenzel of Yale.

I heard the case for change to be the following:

1. It is in the public interest for selective colleges to education more students for “socially useful things.”

2. Demographic changes/shifts will no longer support the irrational “arms race” that has come to define the college admissions process. Simply put, the marginal rate of growth possible in application pools is not unliminted.

3. Our missions and credibility are on the line because we’ve elected to measure our success by considering inputs like test scores, demand, selectivity, etc. rather than outputs and what our students achieve as a result of attending our institutions.

4. If higher education leaders can’t demonstrate moral courage and measured leadership; who can? We need to act now while we still have the respect of the public (even if our respect is on the decline).

The case is clear to me, but do I have the courage to act?

W. Kent Barnds

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