Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered

By Robert Zemsky; Gregory R. Wegner et al. | Go to book overview

3
The Admissions
Arms Race

Michael McPherson—the president of Macalester College, now head of the Spencer Foundation, and long-time professor of economics at Williams College—first taught us to see the competition for top undergraduates as a kind of selfperpetuating arms race. Each institution seeks an edge it can never hold, but each joins in the race, fearing it will otherwise be left behind. There is, as it turns out, practically no limit to what the nation’s most selective institutions are prepared to do, spend, or offer to attract the high school seniors everybody wants.

It is an admissions arms race no one ever wins—certainly not the students who are the objects of these institutions’ intense attention. In the late 1980s Bob Zemsky and Greg Wegner conducted a roundtable on behalf of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE)— then a friendly cartel comprising the nation’s thirty most selective and expensive undergraduate institutions. The purpose of the roundtable was to imagine an alternate admissions process that might prove less disruptive to students seeking admission to a highly selective institution, a process that would help prospective students make the choices that are best for them rather than one designed mainly to benefit the college. In the paper Bob and Greg wrote following the roundtable, Bob told the story of how his daughter, Tobi, had come to understand the college selection process. That story is worth repeating here just as Bob told it on the eve of Tobi’s enrollment in Carleton College.

-32-

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Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Introduction- the Diminishing of Public Purpose 1
  • 2 - The Lattice and the Ratchet 15
  • 3 - The Admissions Arms Race 32
  • 4 - On Being Mission-Centered and Market-Smart 51
  • 5 - To Publish and Perish 69
  • 6 - A Value Proposition 86
  • 7 - Thwarted Innovation 101
  • 8 - Who Owns Teaching? 123
  • 9 - Making Educational Quality Job One 139
  • 10 - Not Good Enough 161
  • 11 - Crafting a Public Agenda 180
  • 12 - Dancing with Change 198
  • References 219
  • Index 223
  • About the Authors 233
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