The University of California is about to start accepting letters of recommendation from undergraduate applicants. Most highly competitive private institutions do so (and many require such letters), as do many public flagships. Berkeley will accept one letter from a teacher and one from someone else for each applicant. In an essay in The Los Angeles Times, Ben Wildavsky notes some of the discussion about this new policy. Some see it as an end-run around California's ban on considering race in admissions, since letter writers may play up the disadvantages faced by black and Latino applicants. Others, however, think the letters may favor those who are wealthy and well connected, and who may be more likely to attend high schools where teachers have lots of experience in writing such letters, and time to do so.
In today's Academic Minute, Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, discusses research on ways to improve the efficiency of getting into colleges. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
The Dallas Morning News on Monday published information about the letters sent by numerous powerful individuals seeking to influence the admissions process at the University of Texas at Austin. Word of the letters (and the letter writers) is setting off new scrutiny of admissions at the university, with many of the powerful saying that they didn't necessarily follow up or seeking to punish the university for disregarding requests. Some letter writers were quite honest that they didn't know much about the applicant on whose behalf they wrote. W. A. Moncrief, an oil executive who has given at least $25 million to UT, wrote on behalf of one applicant: “I do not know this young man or anything about his qualifications, but I do know [the student’s] parents and I know his grandparents very well.” Moncrief added that the student “is certainly from a very fine and highly respected family.”
The number of low-income students who meet key college-readiness benchmarks remained flat among 2014 high school graduates who took the ACT, according to a new report from ACT and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships. That number has stagnated for the past five years, the report said.
About one-quarter of 2014 high school graduates who took the ACT reported an annual family income of less than $36,000. While 96 percent of this group said they planned to attend college, more than the overall group of test takers, roughly half of the low-income students did not meet any of ACT's four key readiness indicators. The report found that 31 percent of all students who took the ACT also do not meet those readiness benchmarks. For example, only 25 percent of low-income students (who took the recommended core course work) were deemed ready in math, compared to 43 percent of all students.
New report by American Council on Education argues many college efforts to attract minority students employ race-neutral strategies that aren't as controversial as those that receive considerable attention.
A study based on Texas data finds that minority students -- and in particular Latino students -- show somewhat different patterns of selecting colleges to which to apply than do white students. The study, released today by the National Bureau of Economic Research, examined where Texas students went to college in 2008 and 2009. Minority students were more likely than white students, even when controlling for college readiness, high school quality and other factors, to apply to colleges that were closer to their homes, that enrolled large numbers of minority students and that students from their high school had attended and succeeded at in the past. These factors resulted in some students "under-matching" or applying to colleges that were not as strong academically as they might have been able to be admitted to. An abstract of the study is available here.
Joseph Lee, who was named president of Pine Manor College two years ago, has left, with little word on why except that it was a "voluntary departure." Lee took over at Pine Manor as the small private women's college outside Boston started admitting men. A recent piece on WGBH News reviewed the college's financial challenges. On Thursday, the college announced that Rosemary Ashby, who was president from 1976 to 1996, would return as interim president.