Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rigging the College Admissions System

Everyone knows that the college admissions game is rigged. No one believes that it is based solely, or even primarily on merit.

If a certain number of places are reserved for minority group members whose test scores and academic achievements are consistently lower than their non-minority cohorts, then clearly the system suffers from some corruption.

On a 1600 point SAT scale African-American student scores at top universities were around 300 points lower than white student scores and 400 points lower than Asian student scores.

As Ron Unz documents extensively in his article “The Myth of American Meritocracy” college admissions officers, especially those in the best schools have instituted a quota of Asian students.

Yet, that is not the surprising statistic in his article.

There’s nothing new about quotas. In the past a quota system was used to reduce the number of overachieving Jewish students on Ivy League campuses.

Today, however, Unz points out that the era of Jewish overachievement has passed and Jewish college applicants have been consistently underperforming.

At the same time, surprisingly, their numbers have been increasing at the top Ivy League schools.

The two groups that have suffered in the rigged college admissions game are Asians and white Christians.

The percentage of White Christians has been declining while the number of less qualified Jewish students has been increasing.

Unz points out:

But the objective evidence indicates that in present day America, only about 6 percent of our top students are Jewish, which now renders such very high Jewish enrollments at elite universities totally absurd and ridiculous. I strongly suspect that a similar time lag effect is responsible for the apparent confusion in many others who have considered the topic.

Most of my preceding analysis has focused on the comparison of Asians with Jews, and I have pointed out that based on factors of objective academic performance and population size, we would expect Asians to outnumber Jews by perhaps five to one at our top national universities; instead, the total Jewish numbers across the Ivy League are actually 40 percent higher. This implies that Jewish enrollment is roughly 600 percent greater relative to Asians than should be expected under a strictly meritocratic admissions system.

He adds:

Indeed, the official statistics indicate that non-Jewish whites at Harvard are America’s most under-represented population group, enrolled at a much lower fraction of their national population than blacks or Hispanics, despite having far higher academic test scores. …

This period certainly saw a very rapid rise in the number of Asian, Hispanic, and foreign students, as well as some increase in blacks. But it seems rather odd that all of these other gains would have come at the expense of whites of Christian background, and none at the expense of Jews.

Unz has been criticized for is methodology. How does he know who is and who is not Jewish? His answer: he considers that some family names are far more likely to be Jewish than others. A Rosenberg is far more likely to be Jewish than an O’Malley or a Jones.

Evidently, this is imprecise and subject to question. Yet, when college admissions officers were setting up quotas for Jewish students in prior years, how did they know who was and who was not Jewish?

When Unz asks why the admissions process employs a preference system that favors Jewish students, he arrives at some surprising conclusions.

In some cases legacy counts. Wealthy donors, Jewish or not, will more likely be able to buy their children a place at Harvard.

But then, Jewish applicants are also receiving a preference because they are more likely to be liberal and progressive. Everyone knows that universities only hire professors who are on the political left. It should not be surprising that the admissions committee skews its decisions in favor of students who are more likely to hold the same political persuasion.

It’s about cultural markers. Unz writes:

One of [Princeton Professor Thomas] Ephanshade’s most striking findings was that excelling in certain types of completely mainstream high school activities actually reduced a student’s admission chances by 60–65 percent, apparently because teenagers with such interests were regarded with considerable disfavor by the sort of people employed in admissions; these were ROTC, 4-H Clubs, Future Farmers of America, and various similar organizations.87 Consider that these reported activities were totally mainstream, innocuous, and non-ideological, yet might easily get an applicant rejected, presumably for being cultural markers. When we recognize the overwhelmingly liberal orientation of nearly all our elite universities and the large communities of academics and administrators they employ, we can easily imagine what might become of any applicants who proudly proclaimed their successful leadership roles in an activity associated with conservative Christianity or rightwing politics as their extracurricular claim to fame.

He adds:

The overwhelmingly liberal orientation of the elite university community, the apparent willingness of many liberals to actively discriminate against non-liberals, and the fact that American Jews remain perhaps the most liberal ethnic community may together help explain a significant portion of our skewed enrollment statistics.93

The least surprising observation is that liberals discriminate on ideological grounds.


Sam L. said...

"...ROTC, 4-H Clubs, Future Farmers of America, and various similar organizations." These would signify "rural; small-town; definitely NOT cosmopolitan". Someone with a not-liberal father, so we can't fund-raise from him.

Yes, the self-proclaimed ever-so-tolerant crowd.

Anonymous said...

I suspect we will see a massive backlash to the cost of college and graduate school in the coming decade. There are only two economic sectors where costs have exceeded the rate of inflation every year since World War II: medicine and higher education. People are going to start asking what they"re getting for the $100-200K they're shelling out to give their children a ticket into the economic middle class, because I'm not sure that's a guaranteed strategy anymore. Just watch. People are not going to write a blank check to receive credentials with minimal economic utility... like the classic liberal arts, with its ever-expanding litany of marginal areas of study in contemporary victimhood. College campuses are not only populated with intolerance, they're also reservations for the oddest thinkers among us. It's a form of welfare for weirdos... a theme park for the Land of Make Believe. The value of the traditional undergraduate college education is questionable with so many educational alternatives emerging that will actually support the value of critical thinking skills instead of deconstructionist drivel which is predictably irrational and silly. What do you do with a prestigious four-year degree and $150K in student debt after being told to follow your bliss studying "mulatto Wiccan medieval lesbian textile manufacturing standards and communal acceptance in lowland Scotland"??? It may be a un thing to do on mommy and daddy's dime (or Obama's, which means its ours), but after four years rejecting the ways of bourgeois America, you'd think they might eventually want to strike out on their own. College does not prepare them with the wisdom of what it means to lead a better life. Rather, more often students move on with skills on how to identify the marginalized people in their midst and explain why it's Bush's fault. How adorable, until they're back living at home for the remainder of their salad days.