Academic journal article College and University

Admissions Testing & INSTITUTIONAL ADMISSIONS PROCESSES: The Search for Transparency and Fairness

Academic journal article College and University

Admissions Testing & INSTITUTIONAL ADMISSIONS PROCESSES: The Search for Transparency and Fairness

Article excerpt

IN A CLOSED DOOR MEETING ABOUT SELECTIVE ADMISSIONS INSTITUTIONS SEVERAL YEARS AGO, ONE ADMISSIONS PRO- FESSIONAL WAS CANDID ENOUGH TO SHARE ALL OF THE DATA HIS UNIVERSITY USED IN MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT WHOM TO ADMIT AND DENY. AT ONE POINT DURING THE DISCUSSION, HE DESCRIBED STUDENTS WITH SAT SCORES IN EXCESS OF 1200 BUT NOT ABOVE 1300 AS AT RISK STUDENTS. IMMEDIATELY ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES AT THE MEETING ASKED THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: "BUT YOU DO ADMIT SOME OF THEM, WHEN YOU DO, HOW DO THEY FARE? ARE THEY MORE LIKELY TO DROP OUT OR EARN DRAMATICALLY LOWER GRADES? " THE RESPONSE WAS, "NO THEY PERFORM ABOUT THE SAME AS STUDENTS WITH SAT SCORES OF 1300 OR BETTER." TO THIS MY COLLEAGUE RESPONDED, "SO THE ONLY THING THAT IS AT RISK IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF BEING ADMITTED."

Except, perhaps, for student financial aid, no other area within the organizational and strategic domain of enrollment management has garnered as much criticism and public scrutiny as the admissions processes that are employed by colleges and universities. The admissions process has been under the microscope for a number of reasons:

* affirmative action;

* the role of the act and sat tests;

* the call of higher high school graduation standards;

* the pressures associated with selective admissions institutions and the attendant focus on academic merit;

* early decision and early action admissions programs;

* and the impact that institutional admissions selectivity have upon rankings.

Critics of the prevailing admissions process come from many angles, armed with an arsenal of alternative approaches that would remedy the ills of traditional models. For example, they may point to the benefits of A level exams in the United Kingdom or the Abitur exam in Germany - tests that focus on specific subject areas that students emphasized in their high school studies - as the potential answer to the problems with admissions testing and the admissions process in the United States. Other educational observers have argued that high stakes high school exit exams could be used to make college admissions decisions instead of standardized tests. Recently the National Association of College Admissions Counselors issued a critical report of both the use of standardized admissions tests as well as early decision (ED) and early action (EA) admissions schemes. Finally, some observers of higher education have questioned the open admissions policies of many community colleges and raised questions as to whether having minimal admissions standards are a good use of public resources when so many students enrolled in community colleges never graduate or transfer. Increasingly policy makers and observers of American higher education have called for a shift: from a focus on student access to student success. They have advanced the argument that student access alone, without also providing a reasonable chance at graduating after being admitted, is ultimately a hollow vision of postsecondary opportunity. Against the backdrop of all of these criticisms, it is easy to see why some educational observers would be attracted to simple solutions, and the list of simple solutions is large.

In the midst of all of these criticisms sit senior enrollment managers who are charged with what has been called the grand sorting process that determines which students are admitted and exerts a large influence upon where students ultimately matriculate. At an increasing number of colleges and universities it is the responsibility of the senior enrollment officer to make the policy and strategic decisions that balance the often competing goals of the financial needs, the academic purposes and the basic mission of the institution. Senior enrollment managers are asked to broker campus aspirations for institutional prestige through measures of academic quality of entering classes, pressures for socioeconomic and racial diversity in those classes, and broader societal expectations and needs surrounding access and opportunity in postsecondary education. …

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