The number of Law School Admission Tests administered in the last year dropped by 16 percent over one year and 25 percent over two years, The New York Times reported. The drops come amid widespread reports that many law school graduates are having difficulty finding jobs for which law degrees are required, and lawsuits against some law schools for allegedly providing inaccurate job-placement data to prospective students.
"For a long time there has been this culturally embedded perception that if you go to law school, it will be worth the money," Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency, an organization pushing for more openness about job placement, told the Times. "The idea that law school is an easy ticket to financial security is finally breaking down."
The California State University System will close enrollment on most of its campuses for the spring 2013 semester, eliminating spots for about 16,000 would-be students, because of budget cuts imposed by the state, system officials said Monday. The statements by Robert Turnage, the system's assistant vice chancellor for budget, came in a call with reporters in advance of a trustee meeting later this week. Turnage told reporters that the system would limit enrollment next spring to all but a few hundred students who quality for transfer to one of eight campuses under a recent state law. (The campuses are Channel Islands, Chico, East Bay, Fullerton, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Bernardino and Sonoma.)
The number of students whose enrollment is blocked could rise to 25,000 in the 2013-14 academic year, Turnage said, depending on the outcome of November ballot measures that seek to raise taxes to supplement the state budget.
Enrolling in college in the United States remains a top goal of students at national high schools in major Chinese cities, according to a new poll by Art & Science Group, which advises American colleges on enrollment strategies. The survey found that nearly all (94 percent) of students at these high schools are interested in college in an English-speaking country, and that 78 percent are interested in enrolling in the United States. Asked to rate the quality of colleges in the United States, Britain and Canada, the Chinese students gave the U.S. the best marks for academic quality, teaching critical thinking, the quality of facilities and prestige. Britain was on top in campus beauty and an emphasis on the liberal arts. (The scores were quite close for most categories.) Asked to identify challenges to study in the United States, 45 percent worried that they might not be academically prepared, 37 percent said that they didn't know enough about American colleges and universities, 28 percent said that they were concerned about their English skills, 25 percent worried about being far from home and 21 percent worried about whether their families could afford it.
U.S. News & World Report has announced that two professional schools have notified it that they provided some inaccurate information in the data collected for the magazine's latest rankings. Without providing details, the magazine said that the University of St. Thomas law school provided incorrect information about job placement and that the University of Houston education school provided incorrect information about research expenditures. St. Thomas posted information about the error. The law school said that it reported law school job placement rates at time of graduation in two places on its form -- one correct (32.9 percent) and one incorrect (80.6 percent), and that the magazine used the incorrect figure.
A federal budget cut -- from $43 million to $27 million -- in funds for low-income students to pay for Advanced Placement tests is likely to result in many low-income students being unable to pay for the tests, The New York Times reported. States have been reporting to school districts that many of their low-income students will have to pay $15 for each of the first three exams they take, and then $53 each for any additional exam. Some students are reporting that they will take fewer exams as a result.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is pushing a plan to merge Rutgers University at Camden into Rowan University, a plan that is hitting opposition from some on both campuses who see their missions as distinct. One talking point for supporters of the plan has been that SAT averages of Rowan are higher than those of the Camden campus, part of the state's flagship university. It turns out they aren't. The Record reported that Rowan's figures excluded the scores of disadvantaged students. When they are included (as Rutgers does and as colleges are generally required to do by those who make SAT score comparisons), Camden's SAT average is higher than that of Rowan.
Admissions officers at the University of British Columbia medical schools, one of Canada's top medical schools, report increasing pressure from influential parents of applicants to admit them, The Vancouver Sun reported. Quoting from documents the newspaper obtained, the article cited as an example an applicant who ignored repeated e-mail reminders about deadlines for various materials, but who was allowed to file them late -- after an appeal from her well connected father.
A few colleges, the Associated Press reports, have an optional part of undergraduate applications: a letter of recommendation from a parent. Officials say that they get unique details that only a parent might know, and sometimes reflections on a child date back to the time the applicant was in utero.
Following my presentation last year at “The Case for Change in College Admissions” conference at the University of Southern California, a dean from one of America’s most prestigious universities said, "We know the SAT and ACT are not good predictors of college grades, but our faculty resist going test-optional. They are worried about standards."
While the debate over standardized tests and college admissions began 20 years ago, the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room is faculty complacency and ignorance. Nearly all of the 870 colleges that are test-optional today have gone that way due to leadership from administrators or admissions deans. It’s a harsh reality, but as winners at the testing game many faculty are oblivious to the damage done by a test that is statistically redundant and socially discriminatory. It's time to set the record straight.
Faculty members need to know that college admissions remain more art than science, As documented in my new book, SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional College Admissions, our best statistical models predicting first-year college grades explain only about 30 percent of what’s going on, leaving 70 percent of what matters unknown. In those models, the academic variable carrying the most weight is always high school grades, while the unique statistical contribution of test scores is marginal: for example, at Johns Hopkins it adds two percentage points; at the University of Georgia one percent; and at DePaul one percent.
In my book, the president emeritus of the University of California Richard Atkinson and Berkeley statistician Saul Geiser stress, "[i]rrespective of the quality or type of school attended, cumulative grade point average (GPA) in academic subjects in high school has proved to be the best overall predictor of student performance in college. This finding has been confirmed in the great majority of ‘predictive-validity’ studies conducted over the years, including studies conducted by the testing agencies themselves."
When not being "truth-optional" in their public relations spin, even the tests’ sponsors concede that the single variable that most highly correlates with college grades is high school grades earned over four years, not test scores derived from four hours of stress on a Saturday morning.
Rather than leveling the playing field, standardized tests such as the SAT and the ACT perpetuate social discrimination in the name of academic selectivity. Whereas high school GPA and class rank do not correlate with family income, the SAT and ACT can’t say that. Defenders of the tests say they are fair and the social disparities expressed in scores sadly reflect the unfairness of life, but the reality is that family income, gender, and race predict test scores more powerfully than test scores predict college grades.
As a result, the tests create a costly, anxiety-ridden and time-consuming distraction from real learning. They undermine the high school curriculum, sending the wrong signal to youth that test prep – which typically costs hundreds, if not thousands of dollars – will get you further than hard work in class. Would standardized testing have such a powerful and distorting impact on the whole of the K-12 experience if the SAT or ACT were not required by colleges for admissions?
Faculty need to know that rather than lowering standards, test-optional admissions raise them, and there’s new data to prove it. Wake Forest University went test-optional three years ago, and since then we’ve seen first-year students from the top 10 percent of their high school class jump from 65 percent in 2008 to 83 percent this year. Pell Grant recipients have doubled. Our student body is more racially and socioeconomically diverse than ever before. Library usage is up, and classroom discussions are reportedly livelier than before.
It's just as Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade predicts in SAT Wars: going test-optional increases the social diversity and academic strength of students at private colleges, and being “don’t ask, don’t tell” at public universities does the same. We expect to see universities that drop the requirement, including most recently Clark University and DePaul University, rewarded with stronger and more diverse applicant pools in the near future. Test-optional enriches the campus experience. So what would it take to end this farce?
Charles Murray, a contributor to SAT Wars, believes that action by top colleges such as Harvard or Stanford would push us past the tipping point. "If just those two schools took such a step, many other schools would follow suit immediately, and the rest within a few years." He adds, "Admissions officers at elite schools are already familiar with the statistical story … They know that dropping the SAT would not hinder their selection decisions."
The aforementioned dean asked me to send a copy of SAT Wars for an overdue discussion amongst faculty at that prominent institution. With data from Wake Forest and other schools that have removed the requirement on the table, it’s time for professors at America’s most prestigious colleges to set the myths aside and take their position of academic leadership seriously. It’s time to do your own research, hold a discussion, contribute to the national debate, and vote. Don’t be part of the problem when you hold the solution in your hands.