Choosing Students: Higher Education Admissions Tools for the 21st Century

Choosing Students: Higher Education Admissions Tools for the 21st Century

Choosing Students: Higher Education Admissions Tools for the 21st Century

Choosing Students: Higher Education Admissions Tools for the 21st Century


This volume brings a variety of perspectives to bear on the issue of how higher education institutions can - or should - choose students during the early part of the 21st century. Many of the contributors report on research to develop and validate potential tools to assist those responsible for admission decisions. Other contributors, however, pose broader questions about the nature of selective admissions, about institutional responses to the changing demography of those seeking to enter higher education, or about the appropriate criteria of 'success' in higher education. The volume is particularly timely because the question of how changes in admission tools and processes will affect campus diversity following the recent Supreme Court decision concerning the University of Michigan. Diversity is an important concern of all of the contributors and the chapter by Lee Bollinger--President at Michigan at the time the court cases were filed--is particularly relevant.

This book brings together the research that underlies a variety of proposed approaches to improving the selection of students. Providing support for the integrity of the admissions process and the validity of new tools to help a higher education institution to select a diverse student body, this book explores the implications of the assessment component of K-12 school reform for higher education admissions practices. The diverse contributions to this volume reflect the current ferment in educational research and educational practice as institutions of higher education seek to develop a new admissions paradigm for coming decades following the University of Michigan decisions.

This book is intended for those leaders and professionals who set admission policies and practices in American colleges, and graduate and professional schools, as well as for those scholars and scientists who research, develop, and validate tools for use in the process of choosing students in ways that are congruent with an institution's mission, values, and goals.


Although colleges and universities have long cherished their right to choose the students they will teach, the manner in which they make those choices is under intense scrutiny during the first decade of the 21st century. Gone are the days when it was widely assumed that higher educational institutions act for the public good. Students, parents, legislators, litigators, and judges have challenged both particular admissions decisions and the process by which those decisions were made by colleges, graduate, and professional schools. This scrutiny of the way in which each institution chooses its students occurs in the context of increasingly severe competition among students for admission to those institutions that are perceived to be "best." Admission to higher education has become both the perceived and the real gateway to success in the American economy and society. As President Bollinger points out in the opening chapter of this volume, this scrutiny of the admission process also occurs in the context of unparalleled competition among institutions to be perceived as best. National and regional rankings by the media have become the scoreboard of higher education. Winning "the gold" becomes the obsession of higher education—and those who make admission decisions are held responsible for producing a "winning" entering class.

A subtext of the debate over how universities make admission decisions is a concern for fairness. Yet there is no consensus over the meaning of fairness in the distribution of educational opportunities. Parts of American society argue that fairness requires that members of gender, racial, language, or ethnic groups be provided access to educational opportunities in proportion to their representation in the general population—or in the applicant pool.

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